I was so shocked that it took me two days to react to the news that my Congressman, Todd Akin, plans to introduce legislation mandating that Americans carry health insurance. This is surprising for two reasons:
1. Akin is known primarily for his outspokenness on social issues like abortion and the Pledge of Allegiance, and for his promotion of a muscular foreign policy, which is personally important to him because three of his sons have served in the military. It's unusual to see him shift his focus to a non-"base" issue such as health care.
2. To the extent that Akin has weighed in on economic matters, he has been a very consistent conservative: he was one of a small number of Republicans who voted no on the 2003 Medicare prescription drug expansion and he was the only Missouri legislator to vote against last year's farm bill. His legislation is explicitly patterned after Mitt Romney's Massachusetts plan, which Romney's Republican rivals attacked and many conservatives criticized for its individual mandate more than most other provisions.
Don't get me wrong: nobody's going to mistake Todd Akin for a liberal or even a moderate any time soon. But I believe his plan is yet another data point showing our country's leftward shift on health care over the past few years. Conservatives seem to be conceding to the idea of universal health care coverage and some have even agreed to the idea that health care is a fundamental right. We are moving closer and closer to the liberal dream of socialized medicine, and the prospects of stopping it grow dimmer every day.