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Why Do Politicians Reverse Their Positions?

June 18, 2012

This is one of those must reads as it illustrates the problems with governing in this nation.

Recall, if you will, that…”The (health care) mandate made its political début in a 1989 Heritage Foundation brief titled “Assuring Affordable Health Care for All Americans,” as a counterpoint to the single-payer system and the employer mandate, which were favored in Democratic circles. … In 2007, both Newt Gingrich and John McCain wanted a cap-and-trade program in order to reduce carbon emissions. …

“[Y]ou can’t assume that policy-based compromises that made sense at the beginning will survive to the end, because by that time whichever group has an interest in not compromising will likely have convinced itself that the compromise position is an awful idea-even if, just a few years ago, that group thought it was a great one.”

What is notable about the conservative response to the individual mandate is not only the speed with which a legal argument that was considered fringe in 2010 had become mainstream by 2012; it’s the implication that the Republicans spent two decades pushing legislation that was in clear violation of the nation’s founding document. Political parties do go through occasional, painful cleansings, in which they emerge with different leaders who hold different positions. This was true of Democrats in the nineteen-nineties, when Bill Clinton passed free trade, deficit reduction, and welfare reform, despite the furious objections of liberals. But in this case the mandate’s supporters simply became its opponents.

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