“The true beginning of our end.”
That was certainly exciting. And scary. And funny. And, I suppose, ultimately tragic all at the same time. Should we really have expected any other kind of ending to the legal drama surrounding the health reform law but one dripping with Shakespearean irony?
As far as funny, two of the major networks stumbled out of the gate simply reporting the Supreme Court decision. Both CNN and Fox News Network jumped out with blazing banner headlines on their websites declaring the individual mandate dead. “Dewey defeats Truman,” anyone? This fired up the ’Net hotter than Colorado. And while it’s heartwarming to see the two rival networks agree on something, reporters should’ve turned another page or two and finished reading. Journalists can get it right or get it in on time, but God, don’t ask us to do both.
(And in case my friends in Texas were wondering, yes, this is further proof that journalists, by nature, are some of society’s laziest creatures.)
“And yet, to say the truth, reason and love keep little company together nowadays.”
Of course, Chief Justice John Roberts didn’t help in his majority opinion by declaring the mandate unconstitutional in some kind of theoretical sense – at length – while deciding suddenly the solicitor general was right back in April when he argued – just in case, in his best stumbling, bumbling Don Knotts impression – that the mandate could be a tax, too. The Court bit: “Mandates bad. Taxes good.”
(As if we needed Congress to have one more tax at its disposal…)
But as others much more savvy than I have argued, Roberts – as the chief justice – has more to worry about than the other eight black robes, who remain piously committed to their respective bases.
Back in July, a New York Times/CBS News poll found the court approval ruling had tumbled to an all-time low of 44 percent. (Stellar numbers compared to both the president and Congress, but I’m sure it’s the wardrobe.) Not only that, but that same poll found roughly three-quarters of us thought political and/or personal beliefs – rather than the rule of law – influences their decisions. Most point to such polarizing decisions as Bush v. Gore and Citizens United, and blame them for tilting the court off its historically protected pedestal above the fray of fickle public sentiment. In that light, it could be safely argued Roberts voted for the court itself, and not for the president, the law or any of us. Good to know someone’s got our back…
“A proper man, as one shall see in a summer’s day.”
So, yeah, for now we’re stuck with it. November’s more important than ever – but not for the reasons you think.
Mitt Romney jumped all over this, declaring valiantly how he’ll repeal this law his first day in office. (He must have had some passion saved up after taking a back seat on the immigration debate for the last week and a half.) And while his intentions are certainly noble – the road to hell and all – it’s little more than rhetorical fire and brimstone. Even if we manage to elect Romney in November, he can’t do anything about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care (for whom?) Act even if he actually kept that campaign promise. It’s already law. So we need to keep our eye on the ball. The House can effectively defund the law quicker than the president can tick off a Red Sox fan. See where I’m going with this?
But there is a bright side. This ruling can’t help but galvanize the right – in much the same way an outright legal rejection would have fired up the left (who apparently aren’t occupying anything else right now.) That’s why I argued more than a year ago that a loss for the industry here would almost certainly translate into a win in November. So in just a few short months, this bitter taste will be forgotten like a youthful summer fling, something you never remember on your wedding day.
Of course, this could all be just some bad dream…
“If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding, but a dream.”