While progressive Democrats are giddy over the Supreme Court ruling upholding the Obama health care law, the Roberts’ decision can be interpreted as cushioning the reputation of the Court from rising public questioning of its balance and legitimacy. Indeed, salvaging its reputation was one of the reasons for its decision in the case.
Democracy in America is thwarted and threatened by three institutions: first, a federal judiciary led by right-wing activists; second, the corruption of free-flowing and secret streams of corporate money; and third, an Electoral College which prevents majority rule in the election of a president. The Roberts Court is directly involved in the first two threats; and the Supreme Court was directly responsible for the selection of George Bush after Al Gore won by 500,000 votes in 2000.
No reform of these entrenched institutions will be easy. But the aura of legitimacy, which is crucial for peaceful governance, can be shattered by effective public debate and action. Supreme Court appointments and campaign finance laws only can be altered by the president and Congress. A clean sweep of the executive legislative and judicial branches by Republicans this year would mean a serious rollback of progressive laws dating from the 1960s and 1930s, and the installation of a more naked plutocracy than in anyone’s lifetime.
In ruling on so-called Obamacare, Roberts said the issue should be left to the voters in November. Thus he helped keep the Court out of Democratic crossfire while making a reasonable guess that the law would be overturned after the president’s defeat or the recapture of the Senate by Republicans. Actually, the law is not as unpopular as the spin suggests. While slightly more than one-third of voters are in favor of the legislation as it stands, the opposition includes a large bloc who believe it didn’t go far enough. A more accurate reading is that voters are deeply divided over Obamacare. That said, the Democrats failed miserably in delivering a message on the law’s benefits, allowing the Republicans to attack it as too much government spending in a recession, helping the Tea Party capture the House in 2010. And Democratic liberals, young voters, and the white Left will not turn out for Obama in historic numbers this November.
The Super-Pacs alone will spend $500 million in just seven battleground electoral states, ten times more than the Democratic Super-Pacs, and many millions more on secret funds slipped through tax-exempt “social welfare” organizations. Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS is spending money even though its tax-exempt status is still pending. Obama will be the first incumbent president ever to be outspent, and by significant amounts.
Money alone cannot buy elections, but enough money can make a decisive difference, as seen in Wisconsin where groups like the Koch Brothers outspent the Democrats by at least 8-to-1.