At first, the Supreme Court’s 5-4 upholding of Obamacare was seen as a great victory for the president, and liberals were rejoicing. His signature piece of legislation survived, and voters would see the wisdom of returning such an effective executive to office. Too bad, Mitt Romney, you’ll just have to find another issue. The justices have spoken.
But then the implications of the court’s action began to sink in. The individual mandate in Obamacare could not be justified by the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority, but it is permissible because of Congress’ ability to tax.
President Obama and his supporters went to great lengths to tell the American people that this was not a tax. They did so because they knew anything tied to a new tax would never get out of Congress. But now comes the Supreme Court to say it is, so, a tax.
That means Obamacare and its mandate amount to – wait for it – a tax increase. “It’s the largest tax increase in the history of the world?” Rush Limbaugh thundered, and other candidates on the right weren’t much less rabid. Suddenly it seemed like Obama was the one who had lost an issue and Romney that had gained one. And it’s the tea party faction of the Republican Party that has found new energy and the Democratic Party base that has one less reason to turn out in November.
So one side will now vow to repeal Obamacare, and the other will promise to implement it as efficiently and fairly as possible, and the American people, by whom they choose for the presidency and Congress, will end up making the ultimate decision. And that is entirely as it should be.