Conservative criticism of Mitt Romney’s involvement in Massachusetts’ universal health care (so-called “Romneycare”) targets one of the most misunderstood issues in the 2012 presidential race. Critics lash out against Romneycare as proof that Romney lacks true conservative credentials, yet a closer look at the political reality that prevailed in the Commonwealth actually reveals that Romney deserves much credit for a principled, high-integrity handling of this legislation.
The first and most important context to understand is that Massachusetts is full of liberal Democrat voters. The Commonwealth’s House and Senate typically are constituted with 85% to 90% Democrat majorities. Such dramatic super-majorities are a dominant consideration in any discussion of Romneycare, as they render the governor’s veto into a mere symbolic gesture that cannot stop the passage of any legislation favored by the Democrats. For example, in Romney’s last year in office, the Governor issued 250 vetoes, every single one of which was overridden.
Another important and relevant fact in any discussion of Romneycare is that the idea that universal health care is now and has been very popular among the majority of Massachusetts’ citizens for decades. To win higher political office, such as the governorship or a Senate seat, tacit or explicit support for universal health care is a political necessity.