This has been a really embarrassing day for Republicans, between the Supreme Court ruling against them on the Affordable Care Act and Congress holding Holder in contempt. Conservative Constitutional objections to the Affordable Care Act were so off the wall that they couldn’t even get the conservative Supreme Court to go along with their arguments. The one Republican who did have a good day was Chief Justice John Roberts. While the conservative activist judges have largely been acting as if the Supreme Court is a Senate with life terms for members, Roberts most likely did place the long term reputation of the court over winning this particular partisan political battle.
There has been a lot of talk recently about who would win and lose with each possible outcome. As I’ve said before, this was important for Obama to win. It would be a serious blow to have his major accomplishment ruled unconstitutional. Yes, he could have run against the court or placed more pressure on the Republicans to come up with a solution, but for the most part those aligned with either political party already have their views regarding the Affordable Care Act. A ruling against the ACA would not suddenly convince lots of liberals to go out and vote for Obama if they hadn’t already planned to. Besides, if Obama wants to convince leftists who are disatsified with him for his centrist positions to turn out to vote, there’s already Citizen’s United and the fear of overturning Roe v Wade in the future. Even today’s decision, in which the supposedly centrist Justice Kennedy wanted to completely throw out the Affordable Care Act, should convince progressives of the need to have Obama as opposed to Romney pick the next few justices.We certainly cannot count on Roberts to side with the liberals in the future.
If there are any political points to be won over this decision, it will be among those in the middle who haven’t already taken a firm stand on health care reform. A ruling that the law is Constitutional does take the wind out of the conservative opposition among those who are open-mined and not brainwashed by Fox. Some might now be willing to take another look at the law, which would be helpful for Obama. Multiple polls have clearly shown that a strong majority supports the actual provisions of the Affordable Care Act. They just oppose the imaginary version of the plan which is described by conservatives.
There is also speculation that this could help Mitt Romney by keeping conservatives angry at Obama. Those people are angry enough, and Romney does not need the Affordable Care Act to get them to vote against Obama. There are strong negatives for Romney if he continues to make a major issue of health care reform. More talk on the issue will highlight the aspects which people do support, and Romney’s lack of a viable alternative would not help him appear fit to be president. Those already receiving benefits under the Affordable Care Act would be unhappy to have them taken away. Romney’s inconsistencies in attacking “Obamacare” would be highlighted by the similarities to his own health care plan in Massachusetts, and his support for the individual mandate until quite recently, including at the national level. If Republicans really want to campaign on their desire to eliminate both Obamacare and Medicare, this is a battle which Democrats can win
Conservatives,, who are squealing about everything from death panels to impeaching Roberts, are also upset about the mandate now being considered a tax. (Rush Limbaugh is even calling the Supreme Court a death panel). Despite public antipathy towards taxes, I think that the Democrats could have done better selling the plan as a tax on those who refuse to buy insurance as opposed to a mandate. People don’t like government telling them what to do any more than they like taxes. The mandate feels like something being imposed upon everyone. Even people who have insurance might not like the fact that they are being told by the government that the must buy insurance. A tax on those who can afford to buy insurance but refuse to do so can be sold as a reasonable consequence in light of how such people increase cost of private insurance and are a cost to taxpayers. Conservatives could argue that this is a case of Obama taxing the middle tax, even if the tax is selective. Obama could easily counter by pointing out his tax cuts for the middle class, and the increase in taxes which Romney ‘s plan would impose on the middle class in order to cut taxes on the ultra-wealthy.