There are still a lot of questions about last week's 5-4 Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act. What does this mean for the Commerce Clause? How many states will refuse to expand Medicare? What does it say about John Roberts?
But of this there is no doubt: Obamacare is here to stay. Don't believe it? Just look at the disarray among Republicans, trying to respond to the Supreme Court ruling. They couldn't decide whether to go left, right, up, down, or sideways. So they went in all five directions at the same time.
Ever-clueless House Speaker John Boehner led off, vowing: If the Supreme Court won't repeal Obamacare, House Republicans will. And he and Majority Leader Eric Cantor immediately announced a repeal vote in the House on July 11. Maybe Boehner forgot that the House already voted to repeal Obamacare last year, on Jan. 19, 2011. That bill never went anywhere in the Senate. Neither will this one.
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Equally clueless Mitch McConnell jumped in next, joining Boehner's call for repeal and demanding Congress start from scratch. "Americans want us to start over," he said in a prepared statement, "and today's decision does nothing to change that." Really? If McConnell seriously thinks most Americans want to re-fight the ugly battles over health care that ravaged Congress in 2009, he's even more clueless than we thought.
Yet both Boehner and McConnell were clear in their response, compared to the utter confusion shown by Mitt Romney. When Florida Rep. Connie Mack and other Republicans called Obamacare "the largest tax on the American people in history" – which Rush Limbaugh ballooned into "nothing more than the largest tax increase in the history of the world" – Romney sent out his spokesman to disagree. It's a "penalty," not a tax, Eric Fehrnstrom told MSNBC. After all, that's what Romney called it in Massachusetts.
But, just two days later, Romney, himself responding to criticism from party hard-liners, hastily arranged an interview with CBS in which he contradicted himself, declaring that the price freeloaders would pay for not buying insurance, even though they could afford it, was indeed a "tax," not a penalty.
At which point, not even Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal could defend Romney any longer. In a July 4 editorial, it accused the Romney campaign of looking "confused, in addition to being politically dumb." And it questioned Romney's abilities as a candidate: "Mr. Romney promised Republicans he was the best man to make the case against President Obama, whom they desperately want to defeat. So far, Mr. Romney is letting them down." When you're the Republican candidate for president, and the Wall Street Journal turns against you – your goose is cooked.
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On health-care reform, the American people seem to have had it with Romney, too. A Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll conducted immediately following the Supreme Court decision found 56 percent of Americans agree it's time for opponents of health-care reform to stop trying to block the law and move on to other national problems. At the same time, Reuters reported that, among all registered voters, support for Obamacare rose to 48 percent, up from 43 percent before the court decision; opposition fell from 57 percent to 52 percent.
Clearly, what's happening is that, despite numerous TV ads portraying it as a big-government takeover of health care, the more people who begin to take advantage of opportunities in Obamacare – parents who can now buy insurance for a child, despite a pre-existing condition, for example – the more they like it. That's only reinforced by the Supreme Court decision. And some of the biggest provisions of health-care reform – like elimination of annual limits on insurance coverage – don't kick in till 2014.
All of which adds up to the reality that, with each passing day, repeal of health-care reform is more and more impossible. The challenge for President Obama and Democrats is to get out and sell its benefits to the American people.
Here's a good start. In 2009, Andy Griffith made a commercial in support of Obama's health-care reform legislation. "And with the new health-care law," proclaimed the sheriff of Mayberry, "more good things are coming: free check-ups, lower prescription costs, and better ways to protect us and Medicare from fraud. … I think you're going to like it."
Put that commercial back on the air – and watch public support for Obamacare soar!