Thursday, March 29, 2012


I'm reading the New York Times article about the likely political fallout from the Supreme Court's health care decision, and, well, this doesn't make any sense to me:

If the Supreme Court strikes down the health care law, Republicans hope to make it a prominent element of their effort to deny him a second term.

"It would be a tremendous validation," Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, a Republican, said in an interview. "A victory in court would say that a trend toward big government solutions out of Washington has a limit and the biggest accomplishment of the Obama administration is unconstitutional."

Really? I think that would take the issue completely off the table for the GOP as a base motivator -- which would be tremendously harmful to the chances of Mitt Romney and all the down-ballot Republicans. They party has got base voters worked up to the point that they're not only furious about the health care law, they're convinced that it's the heart and soul of everything that's evil about the Obama administration. If crazy-base voters see total victory in the Supreme Court, aren't they going to let their guard down a bit? Won't they be less motivated to vote GOP, thus risking not only an Obama reelection but gains for Democrats in the Senate and House?

Of course, I don't think the GOP's overlords need to worry about that, because three days of oral arguments seem to have teed this up about as well as possible for the GOP -- my hunch is that there'll be the obvious four votes to overturn the whole law, plus a fifth (Kennedy) to get rid of the individual mandate but leave part of the law standing. And I think that's what we'll get: the law left gutted and bleeding, accompanied by the clear message -- in the heat of a presidential campaign -- that the movement-conservative bloc on the Court could have overturned the law if it'd had ONE MORE VOTE WINK WINK WINK....

Now, needless to say, Romney is a less-than-ideal guy to take this handoff from the Supremes. I don't think this will be enough to get him elected, because people don't like him. But if you're a Koch brother, and Romney is looking as if he'll have negative coattails as it is, do you really want to depress turnout even more?

I could be reading this wrong -- maybe the overlords want total victory whenever it appears to be within their grasp, regardless of the long-term consequences. But I think they may recognize that a gutted law is as effectively dead as an overturned law -- except it's undead, which means the Obama administration and congressional Democrats will hope to salvage what they can from it.

And the effort to do that will keep the wingnut voter base angry indefinitely, which would make this a base motivator for years to come. Health care reform could be like abortion or gun control: the right gets more out of not achieving total victory than it would out of winning altogether. There's always a new way to restrict abortion or broaden access to guns. The enemy always needs to be defeated. So I think the Supremes will just completely neuter the law, after which GOP pols will declare that it's still an existential threat to freedom!


pstanley88 said...

You've become too negative in your prognosticating Steve.

Telling your readers that those evil Republicans will win every battle but lose the war is depressing. And it hasn't exactly been true since the end of the Debt Ceiling Debacle.

Steve M. said...

Oh, sorry -- I guess I should have predicted ... oh, say, that the individual mandate would be affirmed 7-2, with Scalia writing the majority opinion, like every Beltway insider, instead of accurately predicting that the Supreme Court had gone irreversibly wingnut. Hey, why be right when you can be cheerful?

pstanley88 said...

I guess I'm saying I want some added value into why you are so negative. Write about the limits of the Commerce Clause historically, write about Justice Kennedy's penchant for disappointing liberals (Citizen's United, Heller, to name recent ones), write about the administration's views on severing the individual mandate, or write about anything new.

I just got a little sick of reading over and over that the Fab Five are going to screw me over (as a 24 year old with insurance only b/c of the ACA and a host of preexisting conditions) and that there is no more to be said or done about it. Apologies if I offended you.

Steve M. said...

There's plenty to be done about it. But in order to get it done, people who are activists have to persuade people who aren't activists, and who currently can't conceive of becoming activists, that they need to get involved, or at least get angry at the right people.