Marcus Roberts analyses the political implications of today's Supreme Court judgement on Obamacare for the President, his challenger and the country.
Beltway pundits and conservative-inclined commentators alike are already citing the potential political problems the Obamacare win for the Obama Administration may cause for the Obama campaign. Such analyses, however, risk being too clever by half.
Swing state voters are far more likely to be impressed by a President who can push through big change and see it survive even a Supreme Court challenge then they would the reverse. What’s more, the risk of defeat at the Court’s hands was not just the risk of lost legacy but the potential loss of enthusiasm and engagement of millions of Obama campaign volunteers and small donors.
The win today ensures Obama keeps his base “fired up” and he goes into the General Election able to put behind him questions of political or constitutional over-reach allowing him to focus on a campaign of clear contrast with Governor Romney.
Governor Romney will now have to prove his conservative credentials to his base once again by vociferously attacking Obamacare. Spending valuable political capital and time on any issue other then the economy is a dangerous distraction from the best possible GOP strategy.
As the saavy ex-Bush speechwriter David Frum has often warned, healthcare is turning into the Republican Party’s Waterloo. By focusing with ever greater ire on an issue that is at best a score-draw between the two parties the GOP risked losing everything on the issue: the chance to shape the bill by co-operating in its drafting was lost and the chance to reach out to low income voters whose lives will be improved by the bill’s enactment was lost.
• Vote 2012: Americans in the UK 27 Apr 2012
The Supreme Court and the American conservative movement:
A big winner of today’s judgement is George W. Bush-appointed Chief Justice John Roberts, who surprised many by siding with the Court’s liberals.
At his Senate confirmation hearings in 2005, the Supreme Court Chief Justice claimed he would be an “umpire” of the judiciary, “calling balls and strikes” and approaching legal judgements in a non-partisan, truly independent fashion. These claims were made to near universal conservative applause and utter liberal disbelief at the arrival of another ‘activist conservative’ judge.
Seven years later it is liberals who applaud the Chief Justice and conservatives who are in a state of disbelief.
Roberts today opted to embrace a traditional conservative philosophy of judicial restraint. By eschewing an activist court position which would have seen him joining with the Court’s four ‘conservatives’, Roberts practiced the very judicial restraint conservatives claimed made him perfect for the job.
Their opprobrium in the wake of the ruling reveals once again that conservative talk of judicial restraint is a smokescreen for a radical agenda of judicial activism which manifests, at the national level, at rolling back federal government power and, at the personal level, at eroding a woman’s right to choose.
Roberts’s decision to side with the Court’s liberals is a clear statement conservatives have hit the limits of their efforts to impose national change through judicial, not legislative, means.
In short, America’s future is more likely liberal now, thanks to the Supreme Court’s more classic concept of conservatism.