Could a “Tea Party Supreme Court” save Obama’s bacon?

posted at 5:00 pm on March 31, 2012 by Jazz Shaw

Here’s a strange question which I’ve also been considering lately, but from a very different angle than the subject of today’s discussion. Could a Supreme Court decision striking down the individual mandate in Obamacare – if not the entire law – actually work to Barack Obama’s favor in November? Bob Shrum puts a new spin on the possibility in his column at The Week Magazine.

For those not familiar, Shrum is a long time Democratic operative who worked for Al Gore and John Kerry on their presidential bids, along with many, many others. So you won’t be surprised that the first page of this lengthy essay is dedicated to nothing more than glorifying Barack Obama as the most important president of the modern era, the author of a brilliant new age of social justice and, if I’m not mistaken, the inventor of Teflon. He also can’t resist the urge to denigrate the members of the court who are generally perceived as being more conservative, calling them “Injustices” and “Tea Party justices” and “politically infected” members. But by the time you get to page two, he eventually meanders back to the subject of the article and posits an answer to our question.

(Note: even this part is a bit long, so I’ve pared it down to save space, but you can click through for the Full Monty.)

A politically infected court could produce a politically unexpected result that would confound the conventional punditry, strengthening him and weakening Romney and the Republicans.

Here’s how.

First, voters who hate Obama and Obamacare — and sadly in our riven politics, hate is the right word — were never going to vote for him anyway.

Second, Americans in the grey zone of doubt about health reform, confused by the fog of lies about the bill, would move on and vote, as they mostly would anyway…

Third, the Democratic base and women would rally to Obama because they would understand more plainly than ever the threat of a Republican president packing the Supreme Court with more injustices hostile to reproductive rights, to equality for minorities and gay Americans, and to essential protections for the environment and workers on the job.

Fourth, the aftermath would also engage those who would lose out if the law is swept away, especially young people no longer covered by their parents’ insurance..

This is a case where it looks – at least to me – as if Shrum may be asking the right question, drawing the entirely wrong lesson from it, but still coming up with an answer that could hold some merit. (Hey, even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every once in a while.) But here is my very different premise which Shrum’s hypothetical situation might generate.

Not only Mitt Romney – still the presumptive nominee if you ask me – but the rest of the field have been running on a promise to repeal Obamacare. (How a president does that without the help of Congress is never explained, but never mind that for now.) It’s one of the signature moves of each of their campaigns. But what happens if the Supremes come out in June and throw the entire thing out?

You can’t really spend the next four months running on a promise to repeal something which no longer exists, now can you? Even for the majority of people in the country who now seem to be opposed to the law, it’s going to be pretty hard to use that as a lever to motivate them to get out there and vote in November. Such a decision by the court could, at least in theory, take one of the biggest bullets out of the GOP chamber in the final stretch of the race.

Now, I know that some of you will argue that this actually benefits Mitt Romney, and you might be right. If Mitt is seen as the Godfather of Mandates, as Plouffe asserts, then perhaps this wasn’t a good argument for him to use in the first place. But still, taking away an issue he might have been weak on is not the same thing as giving him an issue he’s strong on. And without Obamacare, his chief arguments have been on jobs and the economy. But with unemployment still seeming to be on the way down, that particular battle front begins to look weaker as well.

What’s left? Gas prices? Perhaps, I suppose, but left to stand on its own as an issue, prices at the pump begin to look like pretty thin gruel. So, this brings us to the exit question. Should we have actually been rooting for the Supreme Court to :::gulp::: uphold the individual mandate and the whole bill so that the case can be decided at the ballot box and not in a court room?


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