Opinion
Get Opinion in your inbox -- sign up for our weekly newsletter
Opinion Top of the Ticket

Supreme Court healthcare ruling could hurt Obama either way

When the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the federal mandate to buy health insurance, who is most likely to take a political hit, President Obama or Mitt Romney?

The skeptical tone of the questioning during oral arguments before the high court on Tuesday did not bode well for fans of the new healthcare law famously nicknamed "Obamacare." Chief Justice John G. RobertsJr.and the perennial swing voter, Justice Anthony Kennedy, are expected to cast the deciding votes between the liberal and conservative factions on the the court, and both seemed wary of ratifying the federal government's right to require every citizen's participation in a health plan.

An argument can be made that if the mandate is tossed out by the justices, the likely Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, will no longer be able to get away with talking vaguely about getting rid of "Obamacare" on his first day in office and will have to actually produce a detailed plan for salvaging the American healthcare system. On the other hand, if the mandate is upheld by the court, Romney would continue to be stuck with his tortured explanation of why the mandate-driven Massachusetts healthcare plan -- "Romneycare," as Rick Santorum derisively terms it -- is in any significant way different from the federal plan.

Handling the healthcare issue was always going to be problematic for Romney, though. It seems the court's intrusion into the issue raises tougher issues for the president. If the mandate is scuttled, Obama's chief domestic achievement will be seriously jeopardized and the court will have ruled that he tried to do something unconstitutional. If the court decides in his favor, however, Republican voters already freaked out by the fear that Obama is a raving socialist will be even more energized, seeing a Republican victory in November as the only way to keep Obamacare from turning the USA into the USSR.

Democrats have done such a miserable job explaining and defending their healthcare scheme that a more militant right wing could dominate the general election discourse with new paranoid scenarios about "death panels" and mandates to eat broccoli (the broccoli argument having already been introduced into the high court conversation by Justice Antonin Scalia).

The fact is, there are reasonable arguments on both sides of the mandate debate. That is why Roberts and Kennedy may yet surprise the country with what they decide. Reasonable people could go either way. The court is the only place healthcare can be discussed reasonably, however. When the issue gets addressed on the campaign trail, do not expect reason to hold sway. Instead, look for a lot of red-faced people pointing fingers and shouting at each other like misfit couples on Jerry Springer.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Potty mouth Rick Santorum shows GOP race is in a rut

    Potty mouth Rick Santorum shows GOP race is in a rut

    On Sunday, Rick Santorum spat out the B and S word at New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny, who had asked him an annoying question. The testy exchange demonstrated how candidates, reporters and, very likely, the public, have grown weary of the unending Republican primary campaign.

  • How Justice Kennedy could have baked a better fortune cookie

    How Justice Kennedy could have baked a better fortune cookie

    Last week’s historic Supreme Court decision Obergefell vs. Hodges gave supporters of marriage equality a deserved victory, but one based on unfortunate reasoning. Yes, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy arrived at the right conclusion, but his analysis was at times laughable in its freewheeling, extra-legal...

  • What the court did, and didn't do, about coal-fired power plants

    What the court did, and didn't do, about coal-fired power plants

    The Supreme Court decision blocking federal regulations on mercury and other pollutants isn't the tremendous victory for Big Coal that it first appeared to be. In the majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia agreed with industry representatives that the Environmental Protection Agency had erred...

  • Supreme Court decision a victory for 'we the people'

    Supreme Court decision a victory for 'we the people'

    Just a note to those California Democratic Party leaders who have been spending the last few months sketching new congressional districts in anticipation of Monday's Supreme Court ruling in a case out of Arizona: Put down your pencils and put away your maps. The court rejected a challenge to Arizona's...

  • California wins with Arizona in SCOTUS redistricting case

    California wins with Arizona in SCOTUS redistricting case

    Who supports gerrymandering? Not voters, who regularly prefer to give independent commissions the power to set voting boundaries. Not the Supreme Court, which ruled Monday in favor of Arizona's voters and their redistricting commission. That leaves one group: politicians interested in keeping their...

  • With NSF funds limited, is $697,177 for climate change musical worth it?

    With NSF funds limited, is $697,177 for climate change musical worth it?

    The National Science Foundation too often shortchanges American taxpayers by funding low-value, low-priority social science projects.

  • The Supreme Court's bad call on Affordable Care Act

    The Supreme Court's bad call on Affordable Care Act

    In King vs. Burwell, the Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Care Act permits individuals who purchase insurance on the federal exchange to receive taxpayer subsidies. Though the King decision pleases the ACA’s ardent supporters, it undermines the rule of law, particularly the Constitution’s...

  • How not to regulate billboards in L.A.

    How not to regulate billboards in L.A.

    This week, City Council members will begin debating whether to make Los Angeles uglier. How? By eviscerating a proposed ordinance that would sharply curtail where new, bright, blinking digital billboards can be installed. Instead, they're considering allowing sign companies, which spend generously...

Comments
Loading