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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Reason Trumps Partisan Bias in Obamacare Decision

In her NYT column Linda Greenhouse nicely summarizes the 6-3 U.S. Supreme Court decision saving Obamacare from the shameless partisan hackwork of Scalia, Thomas and Alito. Referring to Chief Justice Roberts eloquent shredding of Justice Scalia’s tortured argument for the destruction of the Affordable Care Act, Greenhouse explained it well:

The chief justice’s masterful opinion showed that line of argument for the simplistic and agenda-driven construct that it was. Parsing the 1,000-plus-page statute in a succinct 21-page opinion, he deftly wove in quotations from recent Supreme Court opinions.
…And so a case that once looked easy, almost cost-free, became a trap. Justice Scalia derided the majority opinion as a “defense of the indefensible.” But what would be truly indefensible, I believe the chief justice and Justice Kennedy came to understand, was the Supreme Court itself, if it bought a cynically manufactured and meritless argument and thus came to be perceived as a partisan tool.
This whole exercise was unnecessary, the outcome too close for comfort. But there is cause for celebration in a disaster narrowly averted — for the country and the court, which is to say, for us all.

In his column, Paul Krugman echoes Greenhouse’s relief:

…The big distractions — the teething problems of the website, the objectively ludicrous but nonetheless menacing attempts at legal sabotage — are behind us, and we can focus on the reality of health reform. The Affordable Care Act is now in its second year of full operation; how’s it doing?
The answer is, better than even many supporters realize.

Krugman chronicles the impressive achievements of the ACA and adds,

Put all these things together, and what you have is a portrait of policy triumph — a law that, despite everything its opponents have done to undermine it, is achieving its goals, costing less than expected, and making the lives of millions of Americans better and more secure.
what conservatives have always feared about health reform is the possibility that it might succeed, and in so doing remind voters that sometimes government action can improve ordinary Americans’ lives.
That’s why the right went all out to destroy the Clinton health plan in 1993, and tried to do the same to the Affordable Care Act. But Obamacare has survived, it’s here, and it’s working. The great conservative nightmare has come true. And it’s a beautiful thing.

In a saner Republican Party of previous years this would be the end of the kamikaze GOP ideologues’ quest to nuke Obamacare. Sweet reason would prevail and the Republicans would grumble their way to a workable compromise. Millions of Americans would not have to worry about losing their health security, such as it is.
But the fever swamps of the right are already roiling, and there will be more unmerited challenges. We can only hope that the high court will refuse to hear them.
We can hope, further, that this latest blow to the Obama-haters will prove instructive to political moderates and reasonable conservatives. Obamacare-bashing is now more clearly a waste of time.
The U.S. Supreme Court may actually have saved the Republican Parrty from a political disaster. Had Scalia, Thomas and Alito gotten their way, millions of Americans would today have reduced health security and millions more would likely be perceiving the GOP as an extremist party of reckless ideologues. In the end, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy may have saved the GOP from a rout in 2016.

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