Chief Justice Roberts sided with the Democrat-appointed four Justices ( generally considered “left-leaning”) and upheld the law) basically, looked at cynically, by playing word games (“mandate” vs. “tax”). The four dissenters wanted to strike down the law in its entirety. It was a 5-4 Obama “victory.”
I have said all along that either way, opponents of the law (generally, Republicans) win. We win because, I contend, both sides of the electorate (likely Obama voters or likely Romney voters) are more motivated by opposition to the other side than by support for their own side.
All the Court has decided was that the law is, with some tweaking, permissible on constitutional grounds. Big wow! In that sense it is not an Obama “net plus” but merely “not a net loss.” It doesn’t follow that it is automatically “good” law (i.e., helpful to the country or individuals, and problem-solving — and the Roberts-authored decision was explicit on this point) or that it will become more popular (polls show consistently that a majority oppose it). It may gain a few points in polls from some disenchanted Democrats, but no more.
Opposition is allowed to, and will, continue to exist and flourish, despite what the Court held, just as pro-life opposition to abortion continues in full force, regardless of abominable decisions by the same Court for almost 40 years now, to uphold it.
Thus, the case that Romney and the GOP make now will be: “Elect Romney and get control of the Senate because that is our last chance now to get rid of this unpopular law. The legal route failed. But we can repeal it or gut it by defunding it, or stop it by various executive orders if needs be.” All we have to do is defeat Obama and victory in this regard is ours, via the legislative and executive branches of government. Checks and balances . . .
I emphasize again: Voters (at least in this election cycle) are more motivated and fired up by opposition. We want to get Obama out of there; we want to get rid of this socialist health care law, that in part, at least, encroaches on religious liberty.
That highly motivates conservatives and Republicans and even independents or swing voters, for whom this is a troubling issue. On the other hand, I think the liberals and Democrats will indeed gain a temporary boost, but overall, won’t gain as much by this as conservatives, because the motivational power of the usual left-wing recourse to paranoia and conspiracy theory is now undercut. If it had been 5-4 with Roberts ruling the the other way, then the mantra would have been “a politicized court” and “Bush appointees are playing God,” etc., etc. ad infinitum, with all the usual liberal outrage and expressed hysterical inanities.
All that is now taken away. Roberts will be hailed by liberals and Obamacare supporters as a fair-minded, visionary man who rose above partisan politics, despite all the pressures on him, etc. He’ll be seen by them as a good guy rather than Satan incarnate (as five Justices were regarded when they decided that Bush won the election in 2000).
In fact, Chief Justice Roberts simply rendered an opinion. It shows (in one sense) that he is an independent thinking man, who doesn’t “have” to rule a certain way, according to political winds. I don’t agree with him here, but it doesn’t follow that he becomes a “bad man” on an issue like this (as opposed to a more clear-cut issue like abortion, which has to do with sanctioned murder). Reasonable and good people can differ on legal points. It shows that conservative justices aren’t clones, the way that the liberal Justices almost always are, and were in this case. He’s the only Justice who went against the perception of how each Justice was “supposed” to vote (based on who appointed them).
But the motivation of (liberal) opposition to the Court will be taken away. And liberals desperately need opposition to Some Big Thing, since Obama’s record is so miserable and is not firing up anyone.
Today’s decision motivates Republicans considerably more so than the other side. The opposition to Obama is far stronger than liberal enthusiasm for him. It’s turnout that determines elections. And the inevitable liberal “hubris” and triumphalism that we now observe will backfire.
I think it’s a net gain for conservatives and those who oppose the bill. It was upheld as lawful, which is simply the bare minimum: it’s a legitimate law. But it can still be regarded as a law unhelpful to the country in its results. Thus, the situation is the same as it always has been. It’s preserved as a live issue for the election, and that helps Republicans, not Democrats. In a sense it remains a millstone around Obama’s neck, whereas if it had been struck down, it would not have been (though that result — make no mistake – would have been bad for Obama, too).
Win-win. As Chief Justice Roberts said: “It is not [the Supreme Court's] job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.” He is right. We have to protect ourselves at the voting booth. The bottom line is that the law is highly unpopular. That’s why it was a “win” for opponents no matter what the Court decided.