President Obama’s health care reform can sink or improve his chances of getting re-elected. In this case, the decisive battle is not about candidates debating or what happens at the polls; it involves the U.S. Supreme Court.
Yesterday, the high court began a three-day session to hear oral arguments in favor and against the administration’s main accomplishment. The National Federation of Independent Business and 26 states oppose the law’s mandate requiring Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty.
From the beginning, Tea Party activists questioned the conservative concept of taking personal responsibility to avoid becoming a public burden. Then, the Republicans adopted this populist banner, focusing their efforts to regain the White House on the overturn of “Obamacare.”
To the contradiction of supporting personal responsibility, except when Obama proposes it, is that of opposing judicial activism, while at the same time asking the courts to overturn a law that Congress approved. Opponents of health care reform are requesting judicial activism, despite the fact that they have complained about it when the courts have ruled against them.
This is not just one more court ruling. The presidency is at play, in addition to health insurance coverage for millions of people and consumer protections that have already entered into effect.
If the justices overturn the law or important parts of it, they will tear down one of Obama’s significant accomplishments, which is valued by the Democratic base, opening the way to Republican finger-pointing and criticism. However, if the justices uphold the law, the opposition’s central argument, that the law is unconstitutional, will be rejected, reinforcing the president.
The last time the country found itself in a similar crossroads was in 1935 under Franklin D. Roosevelt. At that time, the president was re-elected despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court completely rejected the Industrial Recovery Act. Very few people are confident that this scenario could repeat itself.