While debates will continue for years on what the Supreme Court’s decision on Healthcare means for the future of the country it is worth it to take a moment, sit back, and look at what this means for the election in November. And the implications are far from rosy for the administration and Democrats come November.
The Supreme Court allowed the Individual Mandate to survive. But as a tax. The administration has been busy since yesterday saying we should move on and that it is a victory for the law’s supporters. I would ask how? Moving on from a law that has not even been enacted yet is just silly, regardless of its Constitutionality. And how is it not perfectly reasonable to campaign against the law based on the fact the Mandate and dozens of other provisions in the law are taxes?
Before we go on it is important to keep in mind here that the administration and key leaders of Congress in 2009 and 2010 tried to sell the law to the public based on the fact it was not a tax. It was a fee that would lower premiums and give 40 million new people coverage. Yet when it went before the Supreme Court the Solicitor General argued for it partly on Congress’s power to tax.
Here in lies the rub for Democrats on the law. Every Democratic Senator up for reelection this year (minus Manchin in WV and open seat races) voted for this bill. Ditto for a solid majority of all House Democrats. Many of the Democratic Senators and Congresspeople who are facing tough races this cycle are trying to tout their independence from the administration and fiscal prudence. This brings back front and center at their core they are partisan Democrats and will back a law a majority of the state’s populace do not.
I bring to people’s attention Exhibit A, Claire McCaskill (MO) and John Tester (MT). Both of these Senators in 2009 backed the bill and never backed down from supporting it. They never waffled and helped it pass with 60 votes right before Christmas. They cannot run away from the law and can only distract from it so much. If anything, the wave elections of 2006, 2008 and 2010 showed that voters are willing to overlook a politician’s charisma or work on local issues if they are dissatisfied enough on national issues. If this Mandate/tax does not I do not know what will.
Democrats contend however that the public does not just want to hear about just Healthcare. True, to an extent. But Romney’s statements from yesterday on the law and several Republican Senate candidates, including Rehburg in MT showed that they are willing and able to tie the issue to the broader economy. And right now it shows no signs of substantial improvement. If anything, it is likely to stay stagnant to get slightly worse before November. For the president and Democrats that will be an albatross around their necks in November.
It can also plausibly be argued that the GOP argument the “President spent time on Healthcare instead of the economy,” is not derailed by this law. It certainly does not appear so. The law remains unpopular and when poll respondents are asked, regardless of repeal, whether they like or dislike the law a solid majority do not. So why would the GOP argument about Obama spending time on a secondary issue in 2009 not resonate?
The ruling also gives the GOP and conservatives another advantage come November. A fired up base and ever more corporate donations.
It seems most pundits and pollsters had written off the Tea Party since 2010. In fact most of Obama’s current lead in swing state polls can be attributed not to an actual lead but because a majority of pollsters (PPP (D), CNN, NBC/WashPo, Fox, etc.), minus Gallup and Rasmussen, are predicting an even browner electorate come 2012 than 2008. That year minorities were a significant 26% of the electorate and the youth vote was 18%. Most pollsters are predicting an electorate made up of 28% to 30% of minorities and only 70% to 72% white.
Yet when the enthusiasm gap is tested Republicans are more interested if a little less excited. Among Tea Partiers over 90% according to some surveys are very interested in November’s results. Among minorities and the young that number is far less. Whites, majority Republican, are more interested than any other group. If minorities do not turn out for the president, let alone the young, he is in deep trouble. Polls have shown he is unlikely to win independents and his job approval hovers at 46-49%. Among independents it is far lower.
Romney has consistently had issues uniting the GOP base behind him. This ruling assures he will not have that problem. The Tea Party is sure to be galvanized as will middle of the road independents who do not like the law.
Since 2010 the Tea Party has continued to organize at the grassroots and develop a massive fundraising network. They now have hundreds of county chairs, at least 3 dozen state chairs and thousands of precinct committeemen across the country working with the GOP. The Tea Party has also gone nationwide in the Tea Party Express. This organization helped elect Richard Murdock in the GOP Indiana Senate primary over Senator Richard Lugar. They helped get elected in the Nebraska Senate primary little known state Senator Deb Fischer. Lastly, they most recently helped Ted Cruz in TX get into a run-off with Lt. Governor David Dewhurst.
The organizational and voting power of the Tea Party should not be discounted. Many of the voters that swell the movement’s ranks are the same voters who stayed home in 2008. They came out in 2010 in protest to government run amuck. It is unlikely after this ruling they will stay home in 2012.
The President and Democrats can laud their victory for the next few days. But over time they may come to realize how much of a burden its Constitutionality is. The GOP campaign slogan is already written on the wall, “Backroom deals, higher taxes, and higher premiums. Welcome to Obamacare.”