In the opening segment of her first show after the election, Rachel Maddow, listed the things that are not going to happen as a result of President Obama being reelected, including:
We are not going to repeal health reform. Nobody's going to kill Medicare and make old people in this generation, or any other generation, fight it out on the open markets to try and get themselves health insurance. We are not going to do that.I remember smiling that evening as Rachel went through that list of things that Mitt Romney said he would do if he were elected that are not going to happen. I smile every time I see the new commercial on MSNBC where Rachel Maddow goes through a similar list again.
Until I watched the final segment of Now with Alex Wagner this afternoon, it did not occur to me that Mitt Romney's legacy to this country was that he saved health care reform. I thought it was an interesting perspective. It came during a very interesting panel discussion that included a screen caption calling it "Political Obit" next to a picture of Mitt Romney, when Alex Wagner asked Steve Kornacki, "What is Mitt Romney's place in history?"
Steve Kornacki: I have a counterintuitive take. I think Mitt Romney's leaves the political stage with a hugely important legacy that will be felt for generations to come. It's called Obamacare because Mitt Romney came up with the idea in Massachusetts. He came up with the blueprint. Obama implemented it. And by losing, Mitt Romney saved it. And now the Obama Administration can spend the next years actually putting this into effect. It will become the framework upon which future reforms to the healthcare system are based. The idea of universal health care is probably permanent now, and Mitt Romney is a big part of that.What a concept. For all the discussions that are being had about why Mitt Romney lost with his mendacious campaign for the presidency, the idea that his legacy will be Obamacare was quite a novel one for me. After watching the segment, I did a little more research and found an interesting article by Charles P. Pierce in Esquire from before the election about how Mitt Romney brought universal health care to Massachusetts. The entire article is well worth your time to read, but the ending questions what was really in Romney's soul.
Because, while he never will admit it now, Mitt Romney depended in Massachusetts on the general sense of the people that we live in a commonwealth in the fullest and grandest definition of the term. Back in the day, when he was insisting on the individual mandate, he did so in the context of explaining it as a moral obligation on the part of citizens who could afford insurance to all their fellow citizens who might in some way have to foot the bill. This is what he said about the mandate at a press conference back in 2006:Amazing! Romney thought that the best thing he ever did in his life that actually saved peoples lives (read the true stories in the article) was the one thing that would prevent him from becoming president. So he ran away from it and in doing so helped to elect President Obama to four more years as our president. I never thought I'd ever be thanking Mitt Romney for anything, but "Thank you, Mitt Romney, for losing the election and saving Obamacare in the process."
With regards to the mandate, the individual responsibility program which I proposed, I was very pleased to see that the compromise from the two houses includes the personal responsibility principle that is essential for bringing health-care costs down for everyone and getting everybody the health insurance they deserve and need.So I wonder now how he has come to this unprecedented pass. How much is the presidency really worth to the man? How deeply do you have to scour your soul to eliminate the good you did for the people who elected you? How much of your conscience do you have to excise before there's not enough left to remind you that, once, you helped people? What kind of a man plays his own virtue for laughs and turns the better angels of his nature into carnival bozos above a dunk tank for the amusement of the rubes?
That is the place whence springs the fundamental dishonesty of the Romney campaign — the place where he somehow made the decision that the best thing he ever did in public life was the thing that would keep him from being president, and that the latter ambition was worth more than all the work that went into the former, and all the benefits that work produced. It is a fearsome, dead-hearted gamble with the soul. And it all, somehow, comes back to that portrait in the office of the governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and you see it now for what it really is. A moment in time deliberately destroyed by its subject, a still life, stillborn.
The entire Now with Alex Wagner was an interesting and informative analysis of Romney's legacy. I have transcribed it and embedded the video below the fleur-de-orange for those who would like to see it all.
Alex Wagner: Republicans need to quote, Stop being the stupid Party. That's some hashtag real talk from Louisiana Governor and Republican Bobby Jindal. In an interview with Politico, Jindal went on to say, quote We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters. Simply being the anti-Obama Party didn't work. You can't beat something with nothing. The reality is we have to be a Party of solutions and not just bumper-sticker slogans but real detailed policy solutions [See Jindal: End 'dumbed-down conservatism', Politico, 13 Nov 2012].Here is the direct link to the video at MSNBC for those who can not watch embedded videos with an iPad or other device.
Cross-Talk from Panel: [Laughter.] Wow! Speak to yourself.
Alex Wagner: That analysis is sure to sting the man who lead the Republican Party through this past election, Governor Mitt Romney. In the lastest issue of New York Magazine Benjamin Wallace-Wells discusses Romney's legacy, writing Having organized his political life not around a movement or an ideology but the promise of his own competence, Romney in defeat could offer only the stricken, heartfelt apology of a man who has found himself wanting. ... Now, just a week after Romney seemed poised to become president, there is no segment of the Republican Party that could be called Romneyist [See So Long, Mitt, New York Magazine, 11 Nov 2012]. Joining us now is New York Magazine contributor, Benjamin Wallace-Wells. Wells, whose article So Long, Mitt appears in this week's issue. Ben, always great to see you. I thought that was actually a fairly moving good-bye to Mitt Romney, and your point about Who is a Romneyist I think is very much worth discussing.
Benjamin Wallace-Wells: I think in some ways, it was also a kind of secretly moving good-bye from Mitt Romney. That clip that you played where he said that, you know, I so wish, I so wish I had been able to fulfill your hopes. I think there's something personal and true in that. You know, Mitt Romney in a way that Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry or Rick Santorum didn't, really was running a very personal candidacy. You know, he didn't come in at the head of some movement. He didn't come in with ideological points to prove. What he believed, I think, and certainly what his campaign staff believed, was the country was heading down a terrible trajectory. It required a man of profound competence to fix. And he was going to present himself as somebody who was more competent than President Obama. In his closing argument he said repeatedly to voters in Wisconsin and New Hampshire and Virginia, You don't have to settle. What's holding us back from being a great nation is a lack of leadership. There's something both moving and ultimately very thin about the alternative Mitt Romney presented because it was based ultimately so much on the promise of himself.
Alex Wagner: Yeah, the humanity Ashley that we were talking about that what was supposed to be a victory celebration gone horribly, horribly wrong. The sense that they were on the precipice here that the golden ring was within their grasp, and just snatched at the very last minute was not something that they were anyway prepared for.
Ashley Parker (The New York Times): No, not at all, and you know as Ben's article said, to make a candidacy somewhat about yourself is tough when you have advisors who say, I believe Mitt Romney would absolutely be the best president; he's not a great candidate. [Laughter from panel.] So, you know, it was funny when he was off the record it was like a thing switch. He would come back on the plane, and you know, no one would say he was a great comedian, but you know, he was relaxed and he was funny. And his advisors would joke, we're going to tell Governor Romney that it's off the record; we're going to tell you guys that it's on the record, and that's going to be his best press conference ever. But he could just never soft of convey that to voters.
Alex Wagner: His on switch was his off switch and vice versa. But, the question is, you know now that it is all said and done, what is Romney's place in history, Steve? And I know you have so thoughts about this although I know you were reluctant to explain them during the break. You teased during the break.
Steve Kornacki: I teased at the break for this moment. I waited for this moment because I have a counterintuitive take. I think Mitt Romney's leaves the political stage with a hugely important legacy that will be felt for generations to come. It's called Obamacare because Mitt Romney came up with the idea in Massachusetts. He came up with the blueprint. Obama implemented it. And by losing, Mitt Romney saved it. And now the Obama Administration can spend the next years actually putting this into effect. It will become the framework upon which future reforms to the healthcare system are based. The idea of universal health care is probably permanent now, and Mitt Romney is a big part of that.
Alex Wagner: That's a fascinating theory.
Michael Eric Dyson: You know, it's great.Alex Wagner: Yeah, conspiracy theorists would say it was all a plan to get Obamacare implemented. Bring Romney in as the candidate, he'll lose; it'll be a validation for Obamacare that goes forward. But Ben, you know, we have a sort of cheeky metric by which to measure Romney's popularity which is to say in the hours, the 24 hours following his loss, his likes on Facebook fell by more than 10,000. That is a steepish and sharp decline. [See Diary: Real Website: DisappearingRomney.com.] You know, the question is, as you said self-identified Romneyist perhaps will not exist. I guess, what are Romneyist, though right? I mean do they represent some moderate wing of the Party that will get overrun by the Tea Partiers and voices like Newt Gingrich who think it's all about being more conservative? What does to be a Romneyist mean?
Benjamin Wallace-Wells: If only he had been clear enough throughout the campaign to say. Look, I think that to be a Romneyist is I think at bottom to be a pragmatist; to see government as not an arena for ideological struggle but as a place to solve problems. I that within five years after this election when we look back, maybe even within five months after this election when we look back, we'll say What was it with Mitt Romney? How did we even get to this point? Here's a guy who is totally out of step with the trajectory of his Party, who had no natural constituency, who is not himself a very talented campaigner, a very obviously talented politician, who made it within a pretty slim distance of actually being President of the United states. And there's something kind of breathtaking about that. If Steve is right, and if Obamacare, the kind of seed of Obamacare, is in fact his legacy, then what's doubly interesting there is how accidental the birth of the kind of proto-Obamacare, Romneycare in Massachusetts was. What happened there was a buddy of his, Tom Stemberg who was the found of Staples, kind of casually mentioned to Mitt when he was coming in as governor, that some doctors over at Massachusetts General were having trouble dealing with their uninsured. There wasn't any kind of internal, deep idiolgical commitment to making this happen.
Alex Wagner: Right, he's very much sort of the Accidental Tourist as it were ...
Benjamin Wallace-Wells: Totally.
Alex Wagner: ... in terms of politics. We have to go really quickly, but the other thing we didn't talk about Jonathan is Mitt Romney is sort of an anachronistic 1950s-era character in an America that has been proven to be a very, very different place than the 1950s and 60s. They're browner, more female, younger, and fired up.
Jonathan Capehart: Yeah, fired up, and a little more progressive. The problem Mitt Romney I think had, he brought competence, or he thought he did, but he was rudderless. That competence doesn't mean anything if people look at you and think, You don't stand for anything when you've been everywhere on abortion, gun control, immigration, gay rights; you name it. And that's been his problem.
Michael Eric Dyson: Romney was at the top of the ticket. That's why he came within a hair's breath of being the president. Let's just break it down.
Alex Wagner: Just because he was there. We have to leave it there. Thank you to New York Magazine's Benjamin Wallace-Wells and thanks to our panel of Michael, Ashley, Jonathan and Steve. And remember to catch Steve each and every weekday on The Cycle right here on MSNBC at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. That is all for now. I'll see you back here tomorrow at noon Eastern, 9:00 a.m. Pacific, when I'm joined by the Governor, now former Governor, Politico's Maggie Haberman and New York Times Magazine's Hugo Lindgren. Until then you can find us at a place called Facebook.com/NowWithAlex.