“Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war.” William Shakespeare
Like many conservatives I had come to hope the United States Supreme Court would not only put an end to Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, but would also breathe life into the 10th Amendment by placing much needed limitation on the “Commerce Clause”. That hope was awkward and indeed misplaces as one who has opposed judicial activism relying on the court to overturn a legislative act was uncomfortable. It ended just after 10 am yesterday as the court essentially upheld most of President Obama’s signature legislative achievement. In doing so the court put Obamacare exactly where it belonged, in the hands of the American People who will almost certainly decide its fate at the ballot box November 6, 2012.
To be clear, I disagree strongly with Chief Justice Roberts and his majority opinion, believing Justice Anthony Kennedy’s strong dissent was on firmer constitutional ground. Yet my faith in the constitution and the institutions it defines necessitates respect for the decision of the court. I suspect history will long debate the words we first read yesterday but the fate of Obamacare has now passed back to the legislative branch the people who elect their representatives.
We can play “who wins the polls” all day and do nothing but waste hot air. What is clear is Obamacare has failed to secure the majority support among the American people that any major piece of social legislation (think Civil Rights which had strong majority bi-partisan support) has in modern American history. The President and the Democratic leaders in congress were hard pressed to pass the legislation despite strong majorities in both houses of congress. Indeed in all votes more Democrats voted in opposition to their own parties proposal than Republicans voting for healthcare. Then Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi famously told Democrats they had to pass the bill so the public would come to understand and support healthcare reform. Without a doubt this was the central issue in the 2010 Congressional election which resulted in significant Democratic losses in the senate and a near record loss in the House which saw control pass to the Republicans. Throughout the 112th Congress Obamacare has continued to be the focus of debate with the House passing legislation repealing and Senate democrats killing those bills without a vote. Indeed the repeal votes have been little more than political theater since with Barack Obama in the White House, no repeal can ever become law. So Republicans have had to settle for preventing key elements of Obamacare from being funded (such as IRS agents being hired to enforce the taxation elements).
In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, the solution to this situation seems crystal clear as Obamacare now stands to be one of if not the central issue of the 2012 Presidential & Congressional elections. Indeed, it would seem that in authoring that decision, Chief Justice John Roberts may have helped the conservative cause much more than was first apparent. Clearly, the Obama fabrication that Obamacare was not a tax increase was undermined by his own Solicitor Generals oral argument and was killed in Roberts ruling. Republicans how have a clear case to present that Barack Obama has put into place the largest tax increase in American history, for the middle class and every other class. While initially less apparent but potentially of greater long term significant, Chief Justice Roberts has for the first time in modern history placed significant limits on the Commerce Clause, indeed stating that if the act had relied upon that it would have been unconstitutional. This guidance will live on for generations and many liberals may come to have considerable indigestion over this.
Thus Obamacare will be put to its most significant vote exactly where the decision should be made, by the American People. Mitt Romney was quick to say that if he is elected president and sworn in on January 20, 2013 his first act will be to repeal Obamacare in its entirety. Given the GOP has a strong majority in the house and with 23 Democrats to just 10 Republicans up for election in the senate this year, a President Romney would almost certainly have majorities in both houses of congress. Obamacare would soon find a place of honor on the ash pile of history. However, if President Obama is reelected, it much less likely he would have both houses of congress, yet he would have a real mandate to move forward with Obamacare. He may well have to finally negotiate in a truly bi-partisan manner to realize the funding required to implement Obamacare, but he would have a moral mandate to move forward (even though we conservatives would like it no better). The only way Obamacare can be implemented as it now exists would be for the American People themselves to show their support by not only re-electing President Obama but giving the Pelosi-Reid Democrats a majority in both houses of Congress.
So the battle lines are drawn and the fight has been joined. Within 24 hours of the court’s decision Mitt Romney raised more than $5 million in small donor online funds and a yet unknown non-online donations. While many things have been said and debated about Barack Obama, one thing is for certain, he is the great unifier of Republicans. Mitt Romney in one day has seen significant divisions in his own base evaporate and conservatives find enthusiasm for his candidacy. Mitt Romney has become the great, if unlikely, savior of free market health care in America. Barack Obama is now clearly the advocate of socialized medicine and the massive tax increases which will be needed to affect such a program. To be certain there will be other issues in the 2012 election such as America’s role in the world, keeping American’s Safe and restoring our nation’s economic base and getting millions of Americans back to work. Yet the fate of health care in America is almost certainly to be decided in this election and the debate over it pivotal to the election itself.
Let the fight begin, it sure will not be boring.