Green Room

After the Ruling

posted at 2:51 pm on March 29, 2012 by

Now that the Supreme Court hearings on the health care law are over, conservatives are starting to feel a bit optimistic about the law’s repeal, or at least the repeal of its most onerous provision, the “individual mandate,” which requires all Americans to buy health insurance…or else.

Republicans have ample time to fashion a reaction to the release of the ruling in the coming months. Let’s hope, if the law is overturned, it’s something more than just, “Whew! Dodged that one.”

You can be sure that the White House is already crafting its response, and as Democratic operatives such as James Carville have noted, the president and the Democrats would be in a great position regardless of the outcome. In fact, no matter which way the court rules, it’s a win-win for them.  A policy win if they prevail in court, of course. And a political win if they lose.

This could be the reason no one in the White House is ranting and raving about the conservative justices’ questioning during the hearing. There’s been no sense of the White House “pulling the wagons in a circle” to fight back an attack. They must realize that they themselves are in a terrific position to be the attackers, should the law or mandate be repealed.

And here’s what their attack will be:

Republicans said no again!

A president who shamelessly scolded Supreme Court Justices at a State of the Union address will have no reservations about politicizing a court ruling on his signature policy achievement. He and/or his operatives will surely paint those justices who vote for repeal as members of the “Republican court.” (I suspect they’d have no problem doing so even in the unlikely event it’s a unanimous ruling–they could still deride it as coming from a “Republican dominated court.”)

And then, the starting pistol will sound, and the Republicans will be painted, once again, as the obstacles to reform, giving the thumbs down to everything good and holy. Democrats will be aided in this campaign by sympathetic (or just lazy) journalists, as well as by all the activists who make up the on-air staff at MSNBC, of course.

Conservatives shouldn’t bank on Americans’ general disapproval of the health care law (as evidenced in numerous polls), should Democrats use this line of attack. First of all, opinions change, especially in the face of relentless arguments.  And secondly, while Americans might not have liked ObamaCare, they probably have little or no memory of a Republican alternative proposal (maybe because there really wasn’t one) that they liked more. Their ire at ObamaCare’s overreach won’t necessarily translate into a sympathy for Republicans, in other words, if GOPers aren’t offering a reasonable replacement.

What to do? Well, the first and most obvious task is to get Republicans to rally around a health care reform proposal of their own, complete with messaging. My caution here is one I’ve already articulated: don’t overpromise as the Democrats did.

None of the Republican reforms proposed in the past (from preventive care to tort reform to health savings accounts) is likely to lower health care costs significantly enough for Americans to feel they’ve gotten precisely what they wanted.  It’s time to “Christie up” on the issue, speaking with the boldness and frankness of the New Jersey governor. Yes, reform can lower health care costs, but, no, costs will not disappear entirely if we are to maintain cutting-edge treatments. Expensive high-tech care is…expensive.

As for the likely Obama campaign mantra—that Republicans are Abominable No-Men, blocking his efforts to change our country for the better—this actually presents an opportunity for the Republican presidential nominee. Instead of playing defense on the intransigency of Republicans, the nominee can use the issue to turn the tables on the president, revealing his ideas and proposals as so far out of the mainstream, that not even members of his own party always support them. Here’s my crude attempt at how a campaign ad with that message would look:

In other words, instead of running away from Republican opposition to Obama in an attempt to look “centrist,” the Republican nominee should say, “Darn straight” to the criticism that Republicans block the president’s agenda. That’s not a bad thing when the agenda is so unreasonable.

Whatever Republicans decide to do or say once the ruling is revealed, now’s the time to start thinking about it.

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And here’s what their attack will be:

Republicans said no again!

That’s if the vote is 5-4.

Otherwise, I agree with what you wrote.

But why wait? They otta’ be hammering the dems on how they passed laws and that they haven’t had a budget in years.

cozmo on March 29, 2012 at 3:41 PM

Craft an answer that is less than 2700 pages, takes life and death decisions away from a committee of bureaucrats in DC, does not require 4000 new IRS agents to enforce, doesn’t involve Cornhusker kickbacks, waivers to favorites, doesn’t cut $500B from Medicare and doesn’t require states to add millions to their Medicaid rolls which they can’t afford. Other than that, piece of cake.

Kissmygrits on March 29, 2012 at 5:49 PM

Run a rake through the Health Care Law and bring to light the items that have no connection what so ever to health that were hidden.

mixplix on March 29, 2012 at 8:07 PM

There’s no way in h-ll that having the SC overturn the mandate or Obamacare as a whole is a win for them. Having the mandate/Obamacare overturned is nothing but a huge, huge loss.

First of all, it means that the only real “achievement” of the president’s first term has been thrown out as unconstitutional. The economy will still suck, gas prices and unemployment will still be high, and confidence in his ability to fix the economy will be at an even lower low. Furthermore, Republicans will be able to say that while the economy was in the toilet, Obama and the democrats wasted their time on a health care bill that couldn’t even pass constitutional muster and in the end left us right back where we started from before he was elected.

If that’s a “win” for the democrats, I’ll let them have it every time.

thirteen28 on March 29, 2012 at 11:01 PM

thirteen28, I definitely think the GOP should remind voters of everything you’ve mentioned — how the president and the Dems wasted so much time on a h.c. bill that was unconstitutional. But I still believe many Dems will breathe a huge sigh of relief if their unpopular bill is suddenly off the table, and then they get to remind folks of how the GOP offered little while they at least tried. So it becomes a political tool instead of a liability. I’d say that’s a political win for them.

Libby Sternberg on March 30, 2012 at 6:15 AM

If the GOP wants to address healthcare costs, perhaps they should point out strongly and repeatedly the one point that no one has bothered mentioning. That point being that the US is paying for most of the world’s medical R&D, because most other wealthy nations use single payer. With single payer limiting the reimbursement structures, the medical companies can’t recover their R&D costs through those nations when they sell their equipment and drugs there. So, it all gets lumped on the one nation that has a privatized system where costs can be increased to recover R&D expenses… the US.

The GOP should be pounding that home as one of the major reasons our healthcare costs are so out of whack with all these sginle payer nations, and why they can get away with what the liberals like to refer to as “great healthcare at significantly less cost per capita”. Well, yeah, you lefty nitwits… because we are paying for the world’s medical R&D!! Works nicely for them to keep their costs down and ours to skyrocket.

gravityman on March 30, 2012 at 4:26 PM