HEALTHY DEBATE AND DISCUSSION
The effect on the 2012 Fall Campaign of the
Supreme Court's Health Care Law decision
Sunday, July 1, 2012
by Richard E. Berg-Andersson
First of all, I am not here going to hash out (as I so often [too often? ;-)] do in my Commentaries for this website) all the various and sundry- where not also arcane and obscure- constitutional and legal aspects- or, for that matter, the efficacy (as a matter of government policy)- of either the Affordable Care Act of 2010 itself or the decision of the Nation's Highest Court in regard to same: instead, I'm going to stick rather closely to the very 'Mission Statement' of The Green Papers and only opine as to the political ramifications of all this now as we continue on through this Presidential Election year.
Secondly, it has to be understood that- even as I type this while June becomes July in a Presidential Election year such as this- there is no way for anyone (let alone myself!) to know- as of yet- just what political issues will most come to the fore as this September becomes next October and, then, next October becomes November. Will the Health Care Law- in whatever form or fashion- still be a major issue helping determine the outcome of this November's Federal Elections? I have no idea (though, like anyone else commenting on all this, I could- should I wish to do so- hazard a reasonably educated guess): yet, much comfort also comes with the fact that neither does anyone else. Thus, whatever I might write herein about those very "political ramifications" of this recent Supreme Court decision may not much matter even a mere three months from now!
With those caveats (where not also disclaimers) now out of the way, here goes--
The Races for Congress of the United States (both chambers):
These are- in the main- unaffected by the Supreme Court decision in that- even had the position of the dissenters in this case been the majority opinion (or had the High Court, instead, "split the baby" by striking down major portions of the law while upholding other parts of it)- the political ramifications for candidates for the Federal Senate and House of Representatives would have been the same in any event: the vast majority of Democrats seeking election or re-election to either house of Congress would have been (as they, indeed, will be) running in fullest defense of the Affordable Care Act (only Democrats in marginal districts will not), while their Republican counterparts would be (and are) running in favor of Repeal (with or without Replacement) of what they have long derisively referred to as "ObamaCare"...
in short, nothing has really changed and, in truth, races for Congress have tended, over recent decades, to be rather independent of the presidential campaign in any event- particularly where an incumbent President is seeking re-election for a second term (recall, for example, that- while Bill Clinton handily defeated Bob Dole in the 1996 Presidential Election- the Democrats gained only 3 [net] of 435 House seats while losing only 1 [net] of the 34 [of 100] Senate seats up for election that year [that is: if we calculate the Party breakdown of the Senate "as elected", discounting- for the time being (since both were going into the final 2 years of their respective 6-year terms)- both Senators who had switched Parties from Democrat to Republican in the wake of the Republican takeover of both houses of Congress in the 1994 Midterm Elections]; keep in mind that, despite President Clinton's re-election, the Grand Old Party did continue to control of both chambers of Congress and, thereby, Newt Gingrich remained Speaker of the House [although- and, obviously, inadvertently- perhaps no politician in elective office at the time did much more to aid and abet Bill Clinton's re-election than Speaker Gingrich himself!]).
President Barack Obama (the presumptive 2012 Democratic Party presidential nominee):
For President Obama, the Supreme Court's decision on the Health Care Law is- at least for the most part- a generally good thing, as regards his own re-election bid.
Although there is already quite a bit of punditry "out there" on how History will, someday, judge the Obama Administration (whether it consists of but one term in office, or two) in general or the Affordable Care Act (="ObamaCare") in particular, none of those so opining (whether supportive of the President and/or this law itself or not) can possibly know how historians as yet unborn will look back upon all this:
to be most fair, neither can *I*...
of course, neither can you (unless this very Commentary has, somehow, survived as the moral equivalent of a "scrap" archived in Cyberspace [or as the result of whatever technologies, as yet unforeseen, might be the equivalent of what we today call cyberspace]-- thus: if you, gentle reader, might be perusing these very words in, say, the year Anno Domini 2062, then you can- of course- make a judgment none of us at the time this is all taking place a good half-century earlier may reasonably make)!
In the middle of the year A.D. 2012 as I now type this, however- and again: no one can know how this law, its principal promoter currently occupying the White House, or the Supreme Court decision generally upholding that law will be perceived within the general scheme of History. Yet we do know this: that the Affordable Care Act of 2010 is, in fact, the principal achievement of Barack Obama's Presidency and is even more so in light of the Supreme Court's decision as to its constitutionality. Thus, whatever the outcome of the Presidential Election this coming November, Obama's own legacy is now assured (thanks to the recent Supreme Court decision) and the President is going to run for re-election, at least in part (however large a part, again, depending on just where Health Care might fit in as an issue in the General Election campaign some three months hence), while most firmly defending what is now his legacy.
Simply put: support him or not- like him or not!- we all now know, as regards a Federal Health Care law, where President Obama stands on the issue!
former Governor Mitt Romney (the presumptive 2012 Republican Party presidential nominee):
The same, of course, can also now be said about former Governor Romney-- for we all can now know where he stands: for Repeal of said Affordable Care Act (="ObamaCare")...
but Romney's position is fraught with more potential political peril than is Obama's for reasons that should become clear by the end of this piece!
First of all, the fact is that the Affordable Care Act has now, in general, been ruled constitutional and, thereby, Romney can no longer run against that law being a violation of the Rule of Law itself (though, of course, he can- as he already has- opine that the decision itself was wrong and that, instead, the dissenters are constitutionally "correct" [but this is much like me, while sitting in a ballpark, loudly screaming that a runner for my favorite Baseball team was really "safe" even after he had already been called "out" while attempting to advance a base in the course of his team's inning: for, of course, he's actually out-- if only because the umpire (who has the authority to make such rulings) said he was!]). Romney (like the Congressional Republicans- along with those trying to become Congressional Republicans via the 2012 Election) now has to more emphasize its (from the Republicans' own perspective: negative) policy ramifications...
except that Romney ever carries the "baggage" of having once been Governor of Massachusetts while 'ye olde Commonwealth' itself had initiated just such a health care plan (a plan he himself thereafter defended as Governor)!
And this leads me directly to my second point of potential political peril for Mitt Romney this coming Fall:
no matter who Governor Romney might choose as his running mate, it will almost certainly be someone who is not only more of a bona fide conservative (where at least some Republicans still doubt Romney's own "true conservative" credentials [as I've already said elsewhere: Romney might run- but he sure can't hide- from his own 'R I N O' (Republican In Name Only, as the more conservative call those- in their minds- not so "pure") past]) but also, therefore, someone who is both opposed to so-called "ObamaCare" (perhaps it might even be someone currently in either house of Congress who had voted against "ObamaCare" back in 2010) as well as altogether angry about the Supreme Court having now generally upheld it: but this runs the risk of having a vice-presidential candidate (whose role is almost always that of "attack dog", leaving the presidential candidate free to remain "above the fray" where this is seen as more advisable) on the 2012 GOP ticket appearing to be more strident on the conservative (that is anti-Health Care Law) side of this issue than Romney himself (who ever runs the risk of "yes, his lips are moving but his heart isn't really in it" in this particular regard).
On Health Care, at least, it is highly unlikely that Vice-President Biden will ever say (malapropisms and relatively minor gaffes- not to also mention "bad timing" [as was the case with the Gay Marriage issue a few months back]- notwithstanding) anything from which President Obama will have to thereafter distance himself (re: other issues?-- well--- that may, or may not be another story! [;-)])...
Governor Romney, however, will not have that same luxury! Why? Because Repeal (with or without Replacement) of the Affordable Care Act is now not something from which Governor Romney can ever run away from all through the November Election itself (no matter how much- or how little- it becomes a factor in the Fall Campaign)... for better or for worse, as regards his own election prospects, this very gauntlet Romney himself threw down in the immediate wake of the Supreme Court's decision is now his for the keeping: further, he will also have to live with his own (still to be determined in future) running mate's declamations on the very issue.
The respective bases (conservative vs. liberal):
Both political bases of each respective Major Party-- the conservatives for the Republicans and the liberals for the Democrats-- are now- no question!- highly energized by this Supreme Court ruling and this well plays into what I have already written above about the High Court's decision on the impending Congressional Elections... but
The center of the political "chessboard" (the 'Bell Curve'):
National elections (such as that a Presidential Election is [despite it then being broken down into 51 separate Presidential Elections by the very workings of the Electoral College (which, itself, is really 51 separate "Electoral Colleges")]) are not decided by Party bases: rather, they are decided by the 'Bell Curve' of the American electorate, who are neither ideologically "true believing" conservatives nor liberals and who are not at all strongly tied to the "lines" of either Major Party!
This 'Bell Curve' itself is a rather motley mix of Independents, Freethinkers, notorious "ticket splitters" and the like-- it also includes many a registered member of either Major Party (more usually so registered so as to be able to vote in "closed" Primaries on the local- where not also the State- level, in which winning the Primary is tantamount to election itself) who, nonetheless, ever reserve their right to vote for candidates not of the Party with which they might be registered come a General Election... and their numbers are almost always woefully underestimated (seemingly for two main reasons: 1. the leadership of each Major Party most wishes to consider all registered voters of that Party as their own and 2. each Major Party has to well promote the mythos that, if their own base turns out more heavily than that of the other Major Party's base, they alone can then turn the electoral tide [for the persistent fear- among said leadership- is ever present that, should the base get even a whiff of that which I am writing herein, turnout by that very base will only be depressed]).
Yes, it's true the respective Major Party base can elect a Governor or a United States Senator in a relatively small-populated State dominated by that Party (even a State of relatively large population might well apply [for example, right now it is quite difficult to elect a Democrat to major Statewide office in Texas (that old joke: "Question: what do you call a Texas liberal when he or she has left the Lone Star State? Answer: A conservative") and Texas is now the second-largest State in the Union in population! (But Texas is also that proverbial- where not also oxymoronic- "Exception that proves the Rule")]) and there is no dispute at all that an election in the average American Congressional District or State legislative district is largely determined by turnout by the base of the Party predominant in that district.
In addition: there are nearly 3200 counties (or equivalent ['boroughs' in Alaska, 'parishes' in Louisiana, 'independent cities' in parts of Virginia and the like]) throughout the United States of America-- some 3/4 (give or take) of which are veritable "fiefdoms" of one or the other Major Party and, thereby, are jurisdictions in which it is nigh unto impossible to elect candidates to countywide office of the Major Party not predominant in that Party (except under altogether unusual circumstances: that oft-quoted maxim that Americans fail to take much notice of Local Government unless and until something goes wrong).
But the United States of America as a whole is, simply, too large- and, thereby, too diverse- to be either Major Party's (or, for that matter, any political ideology's) "fiefdom" (despite the altogether vain arguments of the "Not a Dime's Worth of Difference" crowd): besides the obvious- the American Union being a Federal Republic made up of 50 constituent (and sovereign on their own) States (a political and constitutional reality itself reflected in those aforementioned Electoral Colleges)- there are significant sectional and regional differences in culture, economics and politics within the USofA that, in and of themselves, keep one Major Party's base (or a given political ideology) or the other from becoming predominant nationwide (and, even though the Electoral College system never worked the way the Framers of the American Constitution themselves originally intended [that is: as a nominating- and not at all an electing- device (a role long since taken over by National Conventions and- at least in the case of the Major Parties- the concomitant Presidential Primaries and Caucus/Convention processes re: the choosing of delegates thereto)], the Presidential Election- as currently conducted- does yet reflect the same fears of those very Framers that such sectional and regional differences [even those in seaboard-based late 18th century America] might otherwise lead to a failure, by a healthy chunk of the Nation, to accept a newly-elected President from the "wrong" section/region [if only once George Washington was himself out of the picture, politically, that is]).
Thus, and as a result, a Presidential Election (particularly one [such as that in 2012] in which an incumbent President is renominated by one Major Party to seek re-election while the presidential nominee of the other Major Party seeks to deny said incumbent a second term) is, in the main, a mad scramble for the votes of this 'Bell Curve' across the country and- as is the case in a chess match (in which the somewhat choreographed Opening is each side seeking earliest control of the center of the board before attempting to maintain such control into, as well as throughout, the so-called 'Middle Game')- it's the Middle of the Road, stupid!
The question of moment then is (again, assuming that Health Care [largely in the form of 'To Repeal or Not to Repeal'] continues to loom large throughout the upcoming Presidential Election "season"): who- President Obama or Governor Romney- can, on the basis of this particular issue, best attract the vaster majority of this 'Bell Curve' to his side come this 6 November... in this regard, at least at this point, it is Romney who has the tougher road to hoe if only because only if most of the Center (as opposed to the Right or the Left) of the American electorate of 2012 is vehemently opposed to this decision does Health Care help Romney win the Presidency; on the other hand, if most of the Center- come early November- can at least live with the Supreme Court decision, this certainly wouldn't hurt President Obama's re-election chances.
There are, in essence, but three basic choices for the majority of the 'Bell Curve' this Fall: 1. I hate the Health Care Law; 2. I love the Health Care Law; or 3. I'm not crazy about the Health Care Law but there are other, more important, "fish" to "fry"-- the last two help President Obama (or at least don't hurt his re-election bid); only the first can possibly help Governor Romney gain the White House (again, if Health Care remains as "hot" an issue as it now is in the immediate wake of the recent Supreme Court decision).
It is in light of the above that we must consider- at least briefly- something which seems to be largely ignored in general in relation to the Supreme Court's decision on the Health Care Law and its potential effect on the Presidential Election itself and that is the so-called "Ron Paul insurgency" within the Grand Old Party itself.
It should go without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that the Affordable Care Act of 2010, in just about its entirety, is the very antithesis of that on which Congressman Ron Paul has been running for the Presidency!
So, will the Supreme Court's decision on the Health Care Law redouble the resolve of the Paulites to at least be heard at the Republican National Convention in Tampa (if not, however noisily or not, put their own stamp on the GOP Platform)? Or has Governor Romney's "Repeal and Replace" gauntlet only served to further exacerbate the divide between the 'Hard Core' and the 'Accomodationists' within the Ron Paul supporters, where not also within Ron Paul's own campaign (and what will- or, even, can- the effect of such a thing then be at the Convention itself)?
All in all, Mitt Romney cannot afford a major disruption in the program at what will be "his" Convention late this coming August!
in the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court's decision on the Health Care Law, one saw the Internet practically "light up" with the (seemingly) usual stuff about how "this decision marks the death knell of the United States as a Constitutional Republic" and the like--
All the recent Supreme Court decision did was knock Health Care back into the political arena (where its efficacy as a policy matter, in fact, most belongs) and out of the realm of constitutional debate!
If one peruses even The Green Papers, one will surely notice that there are these things called elections through which "We, the People of the United States" (who, again, ever "ordain and establish" our Constitution[s-- plural because the same applies to our respective State Constitutions as well]), in our never-ending effort to continue to make our Union ever "more perfect", freely choose our respective representatives (legislators to make laws on our behalf, rather than all of us daily convening in some 'gi-normous' "Town Meeting" on the State or National level [since it is We, and not they, who are the true "sovereigns" in the American governmental system]) and other administrative (as it were [executive and judicial]) officers.
If, as regards the Health Care Law, Repeal (with or without "Replace") is the more favored by the voters, then this will generally more help the Republicans (as it did in the 2010 Midterm Elections); if not, this- but only on the issue of the Affordable Care Act itself- will only serve to aid the Democrats...
likewise: if the 'Bell Curve' in the Center more favors Repeal (again, with or without "Replace"), it will become a major part- but only a part (since, obviously, there will be other issues at play, regardless of where the now-upheld Health Care Law might fit in)- of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign this coming Fall; if not, however, you won't be hearing all that much about it (except more from President Obama's own campaign then touting it as a singular achievement of his Administration)...
and, come this year's "first Tuesday after the first Monday in November", we Americans will decide just how much weight to give all this while we are at our respective polling stations (assuming we haven't already- literally- "mailed it in" in those States that allow voters to vote by mail or re: those who have voted by absentee ballot)...
and, as the Earth itself continues to spin on its own axis, the Constitutional, and Federal, Republic that is the United States of America will also continue for the duration-- that is: proceeding apace, regardless!