As you have no doubt heard by now, the Supreme Court largely upheld Obamacare with Chief Justice John Roberts writing the majority 5 to 4 decision. Even Justice Kennedy called for the whole law to be thrown out, but John Roberts saved it.
Having gone through the opinion, I am not going to beat up on John Roberts. I am disappointed, but I want to make a few points. John Roberts is playing at a different game than the rest of us. We’re on poker. He’s on chess.
First, I get the strong sense from a few anecdotal stories about Roberts over the past few months and the way he has written this opinion that he very, very much was concerned about keeping the Supreme Court above the partisan fray and damaging the reputation of the Court long term. It seems to me the left was smart to make a full frontal assault on the Court as it persuaded Roberts.
Second, in writing his opinion, Roberts forces everyone to deal with the issue as a political, not a legal issue. In the past twenty years, Republicans have punted a number of issues to the Supreme Court asking the Court to save us from ourselves. They can’t do that with Roberts. They tried with McCain-Feingold, which was originally upheld. This case is a timely reminder to the GOP that five votes are not a sure thing.
Third, while Roberts has expanded the taxation power, which I don’t really think is a massive expansion from what it was, Roberts has curtailed the commerce clause as an avenue for Congressional overreach. In so doing, he has affirmed the Democrats are massive taxers. In fact, I would argue that this may prevent future mandates in that no one is going to go around campaigning on new massive tax increases. On the upside, I guess we can tax the hell out of abortion now. Likewise, in a 7 to 2 decision, the Court shows a strong majority still recognize the concept of federalism and the restrains of Congress in forcing states to adhere to the whims of the federal government.
Fourth, in forcing us to deal with this politically, the Democrats are going to have a hard time running to November claiming the American people need to vote for them to preserve Obamacare. It remains deeply, deeply unpopular with the American people. If they want to make a vote for them a vote for keeping a massive tax increase, let them try.
Fifth, the decision totally removes a growing left-wing talking point that suddenly they must vote for Obama because of judges. The Supreme Court as a November issue for the left is gone. For the right? That sound you hear is the marching of libertarians into Camp Romney, with noses held, knowing that the libertarian and conservative coalitions must unite to defeat Obama and Obamacare.
Finally, while I am not down on John Roberts like many of you are today, i will be very down on Congressional Republicans if they do not now try to shut down the individual mandate. Force the Democrats on the record about the mandate. Defund Obamacare. This now, by necessity, is a political fight and the GOP sure as hell should fight.
60% of Americans agree with them on the issue. And guess what? The Democrats have been saying for a while that individual pieces of Obamacare are quite popular. With John Roberts’ opinion, the repeal fight takes place on GOP turf, not Democrat turf. The all or nothing repeal has always been better ground for the GOP and now John Roberts has forced everyone onto that ground.
It seems very, very clear to me in reviewing John Roberts’ decision that he is playing a much longer game than us and can afford to with a life tenure. And he probably just handed Mitt Romney the White House.
*A friend points out one other thing — go back to 2009. Olympia Snowe was the deciding vote to get Obamacare out of the Senate Committee. Had she voted no, we’d not be here now.
Erick Erickson edits RedState.com See the rest of his reflections here.