The Supreme Court upheld Obamacare last week, handing a major win to Republicans.
It’s not a typo. The biggest winner in the Affordable Care Act ruling was the Republican Party, which dodged a bullet and picked up a golden opportunity all at the same time.
How does that work? Like this:
Had the justices overturned Obamacare, millions of currently insured people would have lost their coverage. The Republicans, in control of both houses of Congress, would then be under tremendous pressure to do something; pressure increased by Democrats as an election year looms in the not-too-distant future.
Republicans, of course, don’t want to do anything. Healthcare reform is a political quagmire that was a messy, unpleasant and politically damaging business when it was passed the first time. Since then, it’s only gotten more politically dangerous so any politician tasked with fixing or changing it now is looking at political suicide.
Republicans are more than happy not to have found themselves in that position, facing millions of angry, suddenly-uninsured voters while being pushed by vocal Democrats reminding the public that it’s all their fault and all their responsibility to fix it, and at the same time, being monitored by their base threatening excommunication to anyone who compromises or strays from the conservative orthodoxy.
“Political disaster” would be putting it mildly.
But the GOP didn’t just avoid a bad situation – they’re also getting the chance to spin straw into gold.
The Supreme Court ruling means the Republicans don’t have to do anything AND they can complain about it. As the presidential election nears, they can use Obamacare in their campaign literature, in their ads and in their debates. They can rail against a hated program that they now have no chance of overturning — and as overturning it would mean they’d have to come up with a different solution, they are now safely in the heckler seats. They can throw rocks without being responsible for any alternatives. Even better, they can point out the importance of the presidential election in Supreme Court politics.
“You see?” the argument goes, “This is why you must elect a Republican for president — to ensure that the next few Supreme Court justices are chosen by a president who opposes such travesties as Obamacare!”
This is not just a Republican strategy thought up by cold-blooded (or right-thinking, depending on your point of view) GOP politicians. This is standard political science. In similar positions, Democrats have done the same things. In 2010 and 2011, for instance, Democrats were hit by a series of staggering losses on abortion and birth control. They spun it into gold by parlaying the losses into a brilliant series of campaign pieces painting Republicans as Haters Of Women just in time for the 2012 presidential election.
It worked well. And it’ll work well when Republicans use the same strategy in 2016 to springboard from an Obamacare loss toward an electoral victory.
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