Huffpost Politics
Jason Linkins Headshot

Late Returns: A Supreme Court Strikedown Of Health Care Reform Would Not Be A Boon To Obama

Posted: Updated:
SUPREME COURT JUSTICES
Jeffrey Toobin has opined that a Supreme Court ruling against the Affordable Care Act would not add up to a gain for President Barack Obama. | AP

Because political discussion is primarily forged in the flames of a pointlessly crazy news cycle, by a profoundly decadent set of pundits farting into a bag all day long, it was only inevitable that someone would argue that losing ObamaCare to the Supreme Court might secretly be an awesome thing for President Barack Obama, who ran on a promise to enact it, and the Democrats, who strove mightily to see it through.

The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin has heard these arguments about the Affordable Care Act case, and he responded Tuesday by saying, No, shut up, all of you, for the love of God:

It’s been said that Obama might somehow be better off politically if the Court were to strike down the unpopular parts of the law (or even all of it). According to this reasoning, he could then avoid the problem of defending the law on the campaign trail and concentrate instead on issues on which the Democratic view is more popular.

This is nonsense. In the first place, in politics and the rest of life, it’s always better to win than lose. Winners win, and losers lose. Moreover, the invalidation of such a central achievement of his Administration would taint Obama’s Presidency forever. To casual followers of politics (and the Supreme Court), which is to say most people, it would look like Obama overreached in the way that the stereotype suggests that liberals often do -- in expanding the size of government. In the event of a loss, Obama would blame the Court, perhaps for good reason, but for better or worse the Justices will have the last word. In the famous words of Justice Robert Jackson, “We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final.”

But a loss in the A.C.A. case would be even more costly to Obama, and to Democrats, than the electoral calculus may suggest. If fully enacted, the A.C.A. would achieve a cherished progressive goal that has gone unfulfilled for two generations: to bring health insurance to tens of millions of the uninsured. The A.C.A. case is less about winning elections than about why elections matter. A loss in the Supreme Court would send the Democratic Party back to square one on the issue.

If the Supreme Court rules against the Affordable Care Act, however, it will be a tremendous benefit to Mitt Romney, who still hasn't sufficiently answered the question of what he would put in the Affordable Care Act's place. It is a highly anticipated event, if only because he's already come up with a health care reform innovation (RomneyCare). Surely, his future thinking on the matter is likely to look a lot like his previous thinking.

But if the Supreme Court gives it a no-go, Romney no longer has to answer to whether he believed his Massachusetts reform was meant to be a "model for the nation" or when he believed that. The court makes it moot; everyone has to move on.

[Related: "How Pro-‘Obamacare’ Is Romney’s New Transition Honcho?" by Brian Beutler]
_______________________

Your Complete Guide to Tonight's Primaries: Wisconsin takes the headlines tonight, but there are races elsewhere of real significance in California, Montana, New Jersey and New Mexico. Jonathan Bernstein can bring you up to speed on tonight's undercard. Want to know if your teevee pundit has spent real time in Wisconsin? Check their pronunciations of tricky county names like Waukesha, Shawano, Manitowoc and Outagamie against this official guide. And if you want to read the most complete overview on everything that's happened in Wisconsin and why everything is broken and why nothing will ever be good again there, ever, read Abe Sauer's exegesis on the new permanent state of recall, "As Goes Wisconsin, So Goes Hell." [The Plum Line; MissPronouncer; The Awl]

Utah Senate Debate Update: Drawing inspiration from Mickey Kaus' (rather thin) book of political tactics, Tea Party hopeful Dan Liljenquist will debate a cardboard cutout of the no-showing Utah Senate incumbent Orrin Hatch. The irony is that many years ago, cardboard cutouts of Orrin Hatch had a 74 percent approval rating in Utah. [National Journal]

Missing in Michigan: CJR's Anna Clark has noted that in the wake of Rep. Thad McCotter's recent woes -- he failed to qualify for his own primary because his campaign filed fraudulent signatures, briefly flirted with a write-in campaign and then just pulled the plug altogether -- Michigan's "local media has given almost no attention to the perspectives of citizens in McCotter’s district." [CJR's Swing States Project]

A Confederacy of Dumb Wealthy Centrists: It's pretty amazing that after giving money in equal measure to Republicans and Democrats, without any thought of what those people would actually do with that money, rich moron Ted Waitt has concluded that something is wrong with the system. So now he's funding a new project to help make it so California districts filled with voters that express their political preferences according to their shared values never ever get a nominee that represents their interests ever again. [Alex Pareene @ Salon]

Around the Web

Health care court ruling could paralyze Medicare

Poll: Decision against health law would be best for employers' finances