With only a little more than six weeks to go before the election, most consumers of political journalism have long since given up hoping major media outlets will write about anything but the horse race element of the story. The strategies, the gaffes, the attacks and, most of all the polls, are the main elements of coverage, as well as the topics for those of us who provide analysis. But every once in a while, we get a piece that reminds us of what all the shouting is actually about. Politico’s story published yesterday titled “Obamacare foes fear GOP losses,” is one such article. The headline may be fairly accused of stating the obvious but the story reminds the reader that the election this year is about something more than the egos of the politicians or their campaign gurus: if the Republicans don’t sweep Congress and the White House, the country will be irrevocably changed by the survival of the president’s signature health care legislation.

Obamacare isn’t the only important issue for voters to consider in November. Spending, taxes, the national debt and the related issue of entitlement reform are all crucial. So, too, are the foreign policy challenges that face the next president, a list that includes the deadly nuclear threat from Iran. But on no other issue is the choice so stark. It is, for example, theoretically possible that either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will do what must be done to halt the debt crisis or to stop Iran. It is also possible that neither will do so. But there is no doubt that unless the GOP secures the presidency and majorities in both the upper and lower chambers of Congress, Obamacare will not be repealed. By the next midterm election, it will be too late to prevent the full implementation of the health care bill. Once that happens, dismantling the infrastructure of the new federal bureaucracy and entitlement will be beyond the capacity of even future conservative majorities. 2012 is simply the last chance to prevent the transformation of the nation’s health care and the massive expansion of government power. If that doesn’t concentrate the minds of an American people that polls tell us overwhelming favor repeal, nothing will.

Opponents say they will never stop fighting the bill. But after the unprincipled and cowardly reversal of Chief Justice John Roberts that enabled the administration to fend off a challenge to Obamacare’s constitutionality, the only plausible option is repeal. Attempts to nip at the edges of the problem via funding cuts would make implementation more cumbersome but it would not stop it. It is simply a fact that once the federal insurance exchanges are put in place and all the other elements of the new infrastructure of American health care have been established, including the personal mandate that will require individuals to purchase insurance, dismantling all of that will be impossible. The quality and the nature of health care in this country will be fundamentally altered for the worse.

Once freedom is lost to governments, recovering those rights is always an uphill climb. The erosion of personal liberty under the Obamacare regime will be great. Along with the intrusion of the government into health care policy that is the inevitable result of the legislation, the mandate to impose payment for services like abortion and contraception will change the definition of religious freedom in the United States for the worse. Liberty of conscience to refuse to pay for things that violate the religious precepts of believers will be severely restricted. Once lost, these rights may never be recovered.

Cynics are fond of saying that while the political class has much to gain and lose on Election Day, the public has little stake in the outcome. There is often a kernel of truth in this observation, but not in 2012. Obamacare means this time the life and the rights of every American will be changed by the results.