Following the contentious
arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court over Obamacare, liberals across the
country have become very nervous. As well they should be. The hostile line of
questioning endured by President Obama’s Solicitor General Donald Verrilli resulted in near unanimity with political pundits
of every persuasion across the country: Obamacare is in deep, deep trouble.
CNN’s legal analyst,
Jeffrey Toobin, just
days prior to opening arguments, stated that it was a real possibility the
Court would uphold Obamacare 8 to 1. After hearing Monday’s opening arguments, he
declared the case “a train wreck for the Obama administration. This law looks
like it's going to be struck down. I'm telling you, all of the predictions,
including mine, that the justices would not have a problem with this law, were
On Wednesday, at the end
of the near unprecedented three days of oral arguments before the highest court
in the land, most pundits still saw Obamacare as doomed. This also seemed to be
the case with officials within the Obama administration, who, after hearing the
powerful objections raised by many of the Supremes, then began referring to Obamacare’s most controversial and constitutionally weak
concept, the “individual mandate,” as the “personal responsibility clause.”
Thus, in a strained
attempt to save face, many liberals then began pontificating that the Court
striking down Obamacare might actually provide Obama and his party with a
political advantage. James Carville said that the Court striking down Obamcare “would be the best thing that has ever happened to
the Democratic Party.”
The Weekly Standard’s Fred
Barnes rightly declared such nonsense “pure political hooey.” He concluded, “If
Obama-care falls, it will be a devastating rebuke to the president. The crown
jewel of his presidency will have been repudiated as unconstitutional. His
pretensions of uniquely knowing how to get things done in Washington will be shattered. Obama will be
a diminished political figure. He will become a lesser president, far from the
top ranks where he has envisioned himself.”
Barnes also adds that, “The
opposite is true if the Court upholds Obama-care. Obama will be able to crow
that he has succeeded where presidents over the past century failed. He has
brought about universal health care coverage. He has counseled hope and brought
about change. Republicans will be demoralized.”
Though I agree with Barnes
on the former, I think he is wrong to conclude that a Supreme Court victory
(especially a 5 to 4 decision) is demoralizing for republicans. In fact, I
think the republicans are in a no-lose situation here. Whatever the Supreme
Court has decided on Obamacare, President Obama and the democrats will be the
Not only would Obama be
“diminished” if the Court strikes down his “crown jewel,” he would be a
“diminished political figure” in ways that few politicians ever have been or
ever will be. He will also be justifiably labeled as having been the architect
of one of the greatest (if not the greatest) assaults on individual liberty in
U.S. history, and his critics will have the U.S. Supreme Court decision to back
that argument. The GOP nominee can then ask the American electorate if they
would like to endure continued assaults on liberty that an Obama second term
would almost certainly bring.
On the other hand, if
Obamacare is upheld, conservatives will then turn to the electorate and say,
“Again, the courts let us down!” From the decision day to Election Day the GOP
will run ads declaring that the only way then to reverse the wildly unpopular
bill will be to elect republicans.
From its birth (pardon the
pun), the unpopularity of Obamacare has proven politically poisonous for the
democrats. After the death of Senator Ted Kennedy, who made universal
healthcare a major goal of his political career, Scott Brown ran for and won
Kennedy’s very liberal seat largely by touting himself as the 41st (filibuster-proof)
vote against Obamacare.
On March 19, exactly one week
before the Supreme Court began hearing arguments on Obamacare, a Rasmussen poll
showed that 56% of likely U.S.
voters favored repealing the law. The number of voters who “strongly favor”
repeal was at an eight-month high.
The Rasmussen poll
immediately prior to the 2010 midterms showed that 58% of likely U.S.
voters favored repealing Obamacare. Furthermore, exit polls
for the 2010 midterms revealed that 59% of those who voted favored repeal. (This
includes a plurality or an outright majority in every battleground state.) Among
other things, the GOP’s landslide in 2010 was a result of the public’s disdain
for Obamacare. There is little reason to think things would be any different
come this November if Obamacare is still on the books.
In other words, a victory
at the Supreme Court should yield political results that are no different than
the results the democrats got after the slick manner (remember the “Cornhusker
Kickback,” the Stupak Executive Order, reconciliation, and so on), in which the
bill was passed.
The bottom line: on this
matter the democrats cannot win.
Copyright 2012, Trevor
Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.