With its decision yesterday on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), the Supreme Court threw fuel on the fire of Tea Party anger over the ballooning government spending and public debt that began in 2008 under George W. Bush and the diminishing personal liberty that has accompanied them.
It is unlikely that most people, having now heard from the high court's majority, will simply reconcile themselves to the mandate and the tax that supports it and turn their loving attention to the law's benefits. A recent FoxNews poll finds that 60 percent of respondents view the individual mandate as "a violation of individual rights protected by the Constitution." Since the law was passed in March 2010, opposition to it has been consistently above 50 percent. The June 8 poll shows that opposition has dropped to 49 percent, but only because the "don't know" category increased. More importantly, opposition among independent voters registers at 51 percent opposed compared to 34 percent in favor. Women oppose it 46 to 41 percent in the same poll.
All of this sets up the president's healthcare law as a "get out the vote" issue for the 2012 election comparable to the same-sex marriage ballot initiatives in 2004 that sent social conservatives to the polls in numbers barely large enough to secure George W. Bush a second term. Many (but not all) conservatives who are unenthusiastic about presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, or are skeptical about electing a Mormon to the White House, will be moved to turn out in November. Given how tepid many Democrats appear to be regarding their candidate this time around, a voter motivator of this magnitude on the right could well make the difference in what looks like a close election.
The Republicans will run against a tax increase that the president repeatedly promised would never be part of his healthcare reform law. They will run against the president's central domestic policy accomplishment, arguing that it is not only raising public healthcare costs, especially after the Supreme Court severely restricted the law's forced Medicaid expansion, but is also impeding private sector job creation.
But if Republicans are wise they will also campaign against the principle underlying the president's top-down, Washington-centered orchestration of how we all provide ourselves with health coverage. In its place, they should advocate a system that empowers consumers to bring down costs through market competition, reforms that would liberate us from both government control and employer involvement.
The 2012 campaign just got a lot more interesting.