In 2002, Mitt Romney was elected governor of Massachusetts. Before Obamacare became law, Mitt Romney enacted comprehensive health care reform as governor. I began to wonder why he decided to push for this reform. Republicans have long been opposed to universal healthcare and people don’t often change their mind. What specifically was he thinking when he decided to get the ball rolling. As it turns out, there is an aspect to this history that is not often mentioned. While there were a variety of factors behind enacting the legislation, one of the reasons for Mitt Romney getting the ball rolling was a business executive telling him that it will help people. Here is the excerpt from a New York Times article about it:
Mr. Romney started the ball rolling soon after he was elected in 2002. In an interview on Tuesday, he said that a business executive had told him, If you really want to help people, find a way to get everyone health insurance.
Mr. Romney said he replied, “I don’t want to raise taxes and I don’t want to have a universal coverage like Hillary-care,” referring to the Clinton administration’s failed health care proposal.
“So I don’t know that it’s possible,” the governor said.
Mr. Romney assembled a team and presented proposals in late 2004, the same time that Mr. Travaglini gave a speech urging expanded health coverage, but with a more incremental plan. Mr. Kennedy, often a rival of Mr. Romney, gave the governor’s more ambitious proposal a guardedly positive reception that encouraged Democratic leaders to work with Mr. Romney’s template.
There you have it, Mitt Romney waited until one of his friends told him it was a good idea before pursuing it. Because healthcare reform had been associated with his political enemies, he did not want to pursue it. Thus he used the fallacy of ad hominem in deciding important public policy. It was not until the messenger changed that his mind changed. The facts did not seem to change in the timeframe that his mind changed.
There are definitely many more examples of politicians who changed their mind based on influences from people in their personal lives rather than the facts. There are even more examples where politicians and others spend too much time in their own circle and don’t understand the reality of how others live (George H.W. Bush cash register incident*, Mitt Romney telling struggling students to borrow money from their parents). Many of us often fall into this trap when debating political issues.
In any case, how much are our politicians trying to not become part of this trap? Are we demanding good reasoning ability from our elected officials? The evidence, especially in this article about modern day Washington, seems to point otherwise. These officials control the lives of millions and yet are using such illogical reasoning. When you are younger, you are taught that elected officials take in all the information and decide objectively the best course of action. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the reality.
Is there a way to reform the system? Is there a way to ensure that the legislative and executive agenda is determined by objective rather than subjective factors? Since everyone who ends up elected likely falls into the subjectivity trap, I am not sure if there is a way to reform the system. It’s a conversation we should be having though.
*According to some online sources, it was debunked by Snopes (though their Snopes links don’t work). Nonetheless, the fact that everyone believed he was genuinely surprised points to the larger problem.