The Supreme Court decision, announced early Thursday, upholding most of the controversial and politically-charged Affordable Care Act including the individual health insurance mandate, might actually be good news for the Republican Party going into the November 2012 elections, and they've wasted no time in using the decision to rally a conservative base whose support for the GOP's presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney, has ranged from tepid to hostile.
Commonly called "Obamacare" by its critics in the Republican Party, the Affordable Care Act is widely regarded as the signature legislative accomplishment of the Obama Administration and the fight to enact it lasted for several grueling months, throwing fuel on the fire of the Tea Party protest movement that already began sweeping through the country in early 2009.
After passage of the Democrats' health care reform, the Tea Party grew even more vocal and active in electoral politics, sweeping the Republican Party to victory in the US House and state elections across the country during the 2010 midterms. By 2012, the enthusiasm had wavered and the Tea Party's independent, fiscally conservative influence in the Republican Party had clearly waned. Most of its freshmen congressmen turned out to be less independent than their more senior Republican colleagues in the House and the Tea Party's one-after-another, flavor-of-the-month 2012 presidential candidates turned out to be too amateur and lackluster to keep the establishment candidate, Mitt Romney, from closing in on the GOP's nomination.
This week, before the Supreme Court upheld the health care reform's individual mandate, the part of the bill conservatives consider a violation of individual liberty and a step outside of Congress' enumerated powers, Democratic strategist James Carville sent out an email claiming: "The Tea Party is Over." Not anymore. The Tea Party, which drew so much of its energy from outrage at the Obama Administration, might just make a comeback in time for the November election and help the Republican Party score electoral victories that it otherwise would not have.
What would make this the ultimate bad news for Democrats is if the Republican Party can ride the wave of conservative outrage and disappointment to electoral victory in November, and then repeal The Affordable Care Act anyways. They could have their cake and eat it too, and they're clearly already on the warpath for this outcome. Presumptive GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, reacted to the Supreme Court's decision by saying: "if we want to get rid of Obamacare, we're going to have to replace President Obama." If he's lucky, and he might be, conservative voters will conveniently ignore that the act of Congress they detest so strongly was modeled after Mitt Romney's own signature legislative accomplishment as Governor of Massachusetts.
Meanwhile, House Republicans have already scheduled another vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act early next month after the July 4th recess. In a press release, House Speaker John Boehner reiterated the urgency of repealing the bill. Various Republican governors are vowing to ignore the Supreme Court's ruling. More telling, "the Republican Governors Association said that nothing should be done by the states until after the election, a clear signal that they believe a GOP president, House and Senate will kill the health care reform pushed through by Democrats and opposed by Republicans."
Meanwhile, stocks kept diving after the Supreme Court’s decision today and a flurry of ill-advised celebratory tweets by Democrats, like the Executive Director of the DNC’s tweet this morning that said, “its constitutional. Bitches,” is making Democrats appear petty, partisan, and more interested in winning a political battle than helping Americans. You can be sure that pundits across the aisle will exaggerate and spin this for their own political gain.
With the economy in such bad shape, the Democrats need every bit of moral ascendancy they can muster, but this morning Republicans came off as morally outraged, principled, energized, and concerned about what the Affordable Care Act will do to small businesses and the economy. Democrats, even if they were to humbly and graciously acknowledge the Supreme Court’s decision, can’t help but appear to be running a victory lap. In an ironic way, losing this battle in the nation’s courts may be a great boon for the GOP.
Whether it’ll be a good thing for Americans, whether Republicans use this as an opportunity to advance alternative and substantive solutions, remains to be seen. Though if history’s any indication, they probably won’t.