Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts may have transformed the presidential campaign when he cast the deciding vote on the Affordable Care Act. The Democrats appeared surprised the conservative Roberts would side with the court’s liberal bloc to validate the individual mandate. At best, Democratic leaders expected the individual mandate would be declared unconstitutional, but the ACA would survive.
The Republicans were clearly anticipating the SCOTUS would declare the individual mandate — and quite possibly the entire law — unconstitutional. It would have fit neatly in the Republican strategy to attack Obama’s legitimacy on his signature legislative achievement. Were it declared so, it would have added to the larger narrative about Obama’s legitimacy to be in the White House. A bad economy, so the strategy goes, would help seal the deal.
During the past 3 1/2 years, the GOP has consistently questioned Obama’s legitimacy as President. Take the issue of his birth certificate. The birther movement would have faded in a second had the Republican leadership not tacitly tolerated it. Donald Trump, a strong Romney backer, has kept the myth alive. No president has been subjected to a such a constant barrage about his qualifications.
When Osama bin Laden was killed in a breathtaking venture, Republicans found ways to minimize Obama’s role and his daring decision to press against world’s foremost terrorist. It seems Republicans have chosen to set up a fictional Obama calling him a socialist, the most radical President ever, unAmerican, and lately accusing him of selectively choosing to observe the laws he likes.
The campaign against Obamacare was primarily launched immediately in the courts to question its legitimacy, despite the fact it was modelled along Republican Mitt Romney’s law in Massachusetts. And in so doing, that of its principal instigator, Obama.
The health care ruling may go a long way to derail the wider GOP attack on Obama’s legitimacy. And it is this that may be Obama’s ultimate victory in the SCOTUS ruling.
The decision also gives Obama a historic achievement after more than a century of attempts by successive administrations to expand heathcare to an overwhelming majority of the population. Had the Court ruled otherwise, the Republicans would have claimed the President wasted the nation’s time and energy during the throes of a major recession. It would also have given new life to the “Obama is illegimate” narrative.
How will Obama’s victory affect the campaign and his chances for a second term? It certainly creates momentum and adds to his list of first-term achievements that includes preventing an economic depression, getting bin Laden, saving GM, reforms in education with Race to the Top,getting out of Iraq, building a coalition to bring down Gadhafi, and putting in place a plan to withdraw from Afghanistan.
But it is early to draw conclusions. Already, the Republicans are promising to repeal Obamacare. Mitt Romney vows to replace it. The Tea Party will re-energize and GOP ranks are bound to close. The only caveat is that overdramatizing the SCOTUS ruling reduces time spent on attacking Obama’s economic record where he is most vulnerable.
Now that the “Obama is illegitimate” narrative took a beating with the constitutionality of Obamacare and an earlier ruling in the week generally supporting the Obama administration’s position against the Arizona Immigration law, it obvious the man in the White House is having a good week. And this cannot hurt his chances at this stage in the campaign.