Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Health-Care Politics

Philip Klein has an interesting piece about the dynamic for the repeal/overturning of the new health-care law:

Though the public wasn't exactly rallying to support the law when Democrats were confidently defending it, by running away from it, Democrats virtually ensure that it will remain unpopular because the public will continue to be exposed more to the criticisms of the legislation than arguments in favor of it. As always, the possibility of GOP lawmakers becoming weak-kneed is the biggest obstacle to getting anything accomplished. But as long as ObamaCare remains unpopular and opposition is politically advantageous, it makes it more likely that Republicans will have the backbone to see through the repeal process.

On top of repeal, the continued unpopularity of the health care law could bolster legal challenges to the law's constitutionality. This was a point that Geoergetown Law Professor Randy Barnett emphasized to me when I spoke to him for a magazine piece.

"As public opposition to the mandate builds, this gives judges the fortitude they normally lack to enforce the Constitution against the will of Congress, which they deem to be the popular will," he said. "If it's not the popular will, they're a lot more willing to strike down laws that they otherwise would uphold."

These are good points. However, it should not be forgotten that what may be a major political strategy for many Democrats will be to talk down the law while at the same time working (behind the scenes if possible) to prevent any real changes to Obamacare.

These continued attacks upon Obamacare may continually fuel public opposition to the law, but "progressives" may be hoping that they can use the federal government's legislative structural bias against new legislation in order to prevent any authentic reform.

This strategy is one reason why people who are skeptical about Obamacare might be skeptical about supporting a Democrat who has suddenly "seen the light" and now opposes the law. Take West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin. Sure, Manchin now says that he supports the partial repeal of the law, but he stood proudly for it in the heat of the battle in early 2010. When push comes to shove, and a Democratic president or Democratic Senate leader asks Manchin to work against repeal, is it likely that he'll really refuse? At least, that is, if there's not an election right around the corner?

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