Election 2012: Supremely Political

The outcome of the 2012 presidential election could now be resting in the hands of nine unelected Supreme Court justices as they consider the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare. The biggest matter at hand for the Court concerns the individual health insurance mandate, which forms the core of the law. All of its other facets, including allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26 – which was clearly meant to appeal to young voters – and reforms to the ability of insurance companies to refuse coverage, revolve around the increased revenues from millions of Americans who would be required by law to purchase health insurance. However, the individual mandate is a grossly unconstitutional power grab by the federal government. Its unconstitutionality can be proved with a simple question: what could the government mandate next? Could it mandate that all Americans purchase an automobile so that the lower classes are not unfairly outcompeted and outpaced in a busy age? Could it mandate that all Americans purchase a house so that everyone has consistent housing and that owning a home is not only a luxury for the wealthy? If the individual health insurance mandate is ruled constitutional, there will be absolutely no limit to how the government will be able to control people’s lives. Probably no one in America wants Obamacare thrown out more than Mitt Romney. Going into the general election, it has always been assumed that Romney’s biggest weakness in providing contrast with the failed President would be with concern to Obamacare, since the health care reform that Romney passed as Governor of Massachusetts was essentially the same as Obamacare. Romneycare, as it is called, featured an individual insurance mandate identical to that found in Obamacare. If Obamacare is overturned, then Romney will not have to address the law much, except perhaps through some applause line about how Obama unsuccessfully tried to shove an unconstitutional mandate down the throats of the American people. However, if it is upheld, then Romney will be forced to keep mum about the law, because the first time he mentions it, Obama will simply say “Now, Mitt, I was just doing what you did in Massachusetts, and like it or not, it has been determined to be constitutional.” The Republican Party has been aware of this potential weakness as it has slowly (although not completely) chosen Romney as its standard-bearer for November.

Some in the media have suggested that the overturning of Obamacare would actually help Obama’s reelection bid. However, that is simply nonsensical. What would it say about the incumbent President should his singular and monumental domestic achievement be deemed unconstitutional? Such a decision would be the ultimate reinforcement of what many in the public already believe: that Obama simply has not done anything. The nation was promised hope and change in 2008, and the Democratic Party, specifically, was promised what amounted to a progressive Messiah. Health care reform had been on the liberal wish list for decades, and although Obamacare was certainly less than what the Democrats were craving (a public option for health insurance), with Obama they finally got something that at least resembled “health care reform.” Interestingly, the way the Court’s ruling is reached in this case will be essential to how it is used politically in the general election. If the ruling is split ideologically, or in other words if the four conservative Justices (Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and Roberts) plus Kennedy, the swing vote, collectively strike down the law, then Obama will be able to blast the decision as purely political and based solely on personal ideology. However, considering the potential impact of this law and the fact that the capstone of the president’s domestic policy is on the line, I expect the ruling to be politicized to the extreme, regardless of what that ruling may be.