A new poll shows two-thirds of Americans hope the Supreme Court will overturn some or all of the 2010 law this month. Only 24 percent want the Court to “keep the entire health care law in place.”
When it rules later this month, the Court may well start an Obamacare avalanche to bury not only the individual mandate but underpinnings of the entire law, as Jeffrey Toobin explains in the New Yorker.
That could well be the final nail in the coffin of Democratic hopes to hold on to the White House and/or at least one chamber of Congress.
Toobin destroys wishful thinking that the President could politically survive and “avoid the problem of defending the law on the campaign trail and concentrate instead on issues on which the Democratic view is more popular.
“This is nonsense. In the first place, in politics and the rest of life, it’s always better to win than lose...Moreover, the invalidation of such a central achievement of his Administration would taint Obama’s Presidency forever...it would look like Obama overreached in the way that the stereotype suggests that liberals often do in expanding the size of government.
“In the event of a loss, Obama would blame the Court, perhaps for good reason, but for better or worse the Justices will have the last word. In the famous words of Justice Robert Jackson, ‘We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final.’”
For collectors of ironies, the bottom line in such a November defeat would be that the health-care war was lost not only by the ugly spectacle of both parties in Congress bloating the law into a monstrous mess but a President who let them do it by not taking charge at the start.
Instead on analyzing the red-meat issue and offering a plan to deal with its major components, the President stepped back and tossed it into the Congressional boneyard where it could be shredded into scraps.
Instead of emphasizing how the current system threatens to bankrupt the middle class, Obama chose to reassure them that they could keep their current coverage while appealing to their sense of fairness in bringing 30 million uninsured into it, opening the way for Tea Party demagoguery about socialism.
Instead of acknowledging that cost containment was a complex tangle of provider greed and unbridled patient sense of entitlement, Obama persisted in hazy formulations about bending the cost curve.
And yet, as on every issue in this election, when voters go to the polls, they will be facing a choice between a President suffering from self-inflicted injuries in pursuit of noble goals and a successor who is, in my friend Murray Kempton’s image, a general who stays safely above the battle and comes down later to shoot the wounded.
Barack Obama has made strategic and tactical mistakes in his first term, but he deserves a far better fate than being swept away by the aftermath of a Pyrrhic victory on health care in favor of people whose vocabulary does not recognize “noble” as a national goal.
Update: Small consolation for the President that it may be, a new poll shows only 44 percent of Americans approving of the Supreme Court with three-quarters saying decisions are sometimes influenced by personal or political views, compared to 66 percent of approval ratings two decades ago.
Welcome to the Apocalypse, Mr. Justices.