The 2012 presidential campaign is already in full swing. Conventional wisdom asserts that Americans don't think seriously about the November election until after Labor Day. But there is so much money to spend this year that the politicking is proceeding at top speed, whether voters pay attention or not. |
Tomorrow is a big day. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is coming to town. People will gather at LeClaire Park to enjoy another round of Obama bashing and to see whether or not a dog is strapped to the roof of his campaign bus.
That's unlikely; a cow or pig would be more appropriate for a Midwestern tour. The poor guy has taken a lot of heat for his dog-on-the-roof family vacation trip to Canada many years ago. New York Times editor Gail Collins managed to work that incident into -- by her own count -- "about a million" columns. Her persistence in the matter has made the story the thing most people know best about Romney.
Actually, his great achievement in public life was the establishment of a health care program for the state of Massachusetts, one which served as a model for what we now know as "Obamacare." That's an even odder factoid than the dog bit, but it doesn't get as much play.
Romney's signature political success is also his biggest problem. The Republican Party has succeeded in making Obamacare the principal means with which to make him a one-term president. Yet, it is, at bottom, a national extension of "Romneycare." Trying to distance himself from his own record has tied the GOP's standard-bearer in knots. Instead, he harps on his years at Bain Capital, a presidential resume irrelevance.
The whole Affordable Health Care Act saga is odd. It began as a conservative Republican alternative to single-pay national health insurance. A single-pay system might be more efficient, cheaper, and a tool for reducing medical and pharmaceutical costs. But it would be "socialism!" -- like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the rest of those misguided programs that serve average citizens, rather than corporate America.
Its principal defect was that it left insurance companies out in the cold. The insurance industry needed an alternative to single-pay that would keep them in the picture. Hence, Romneycare. Cumbersome and private-profit-oriented as the Massachusetts program may be, it has worked.
But we don't talk about that.
That's because when Obama decided to yield on single-pay in favor of the insurance-centered program, Republicans turned on a dime and opposed it. The change of heart had nothing to do with the merits of the bill. It became just another means of denying the president a legislative success, at whatever cost.
The Supreme Court jumped into the fray in order to have maximum impact on the November election. The last time the Roberts court moved this quickly was to get the Citizens United case on the docket in time to affect the 2010 election. Court skeptics find an easy parallel in its decision to settle the health care argument as close to the fall vote as possible.
Tomorrow may be the big day. If not, the court should have an announcement before the 30th.
After that, several split for vacation teaching and speaking gigs to augment their judicial salaries. Chief Justice John Roberts heads for Malta; Justice Samuel Alito, for Italy; Antonin Scalia, for Austria; and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg for someplace in Europe. Justice must be served, but the Supreme Court is as adamant about its vacations as Congress.
If health care doesn't kick up enough electoral dust, the justices also have the Arizona immigration law on the docket, along with a decision about the FCC's policing of naughty language and nudity on television. All told, there are more than a dozen other issues awaiting resolution.
What's truly interesting -- and scary -- is that the Roberts Court has demonstrated a willingness to strike far beyond the limits of an individual case before it. The heart of the Affordable Health Care Act rests on the Constitution's Commerce Clause, which also serves as the basis for much of the past century's progressive legislation.
If a five-vote majority wishes to, it could achieve what the far right has failed to accomplish in Congress or at the ballot box: not only declare Obamacare unconstitutional, but undercut New Deal and Great Society programs in the process. If you think they wouldn't dare, take another look at Citizens United.
It's going to be an interesting two weeks.
Don Wooten of Rock Island is a former state senator and veteran broadcaster; email@example.com.
Moline, IL Details
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