Healthcare “Warfare”: A Turning Point?

In our AP US Government class, we have recently learned about political parties, organizations, and the election process in general. We have studied the range of factors that affect politicians’ success during their terms in office and during their time on the campaign trail—an especially relevant topic in light of recent events leading up to the 2012 presidential elections. The passage of President Obama’s healthcare reform bill has been a divisive issue amongst Democrats and Republicans for quite some time, producing strong and vocal opinions for and against the bill. However, the healthcare bill is no longer just the focus of debate amongst the Republicans and Democrats in Congress. Now, the Supreme Court is putting the bill to the test in terms of constitutionality.

The Supreme Court’s actions have raised an important question: What will the case results do for (or against) Obama’s campaign? At first glance, the answer seems clear. If the Supreme Court says that the healthcare law is constitutional, Obama’s campaign will receive a positive boost. If the law is declared unconstitutional, Obama will risk losing legal credibility. However, the actual effect of the Supreme Court ruling on the views of the American public is more difficult to pinpoint. According to the Huffington Post, even if the healthcare law was declared unconstitutional, “it would end the GOP argument that a Republican president must be elected to guarantee repeal of the law.”

Just as important in affecting the views of the American public is how President Obama reacts to the Supreme Court ruling, whether it is for better or for worse. Some scholars argue that even if Obama receives negative feedback from the Supreme Court, trying to aggressively modify the Court in response would only make things worse. Political author John Meacham makes this case in an opinion article for Time, giving the historical example of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to support his theory about the relationship between the Court and the presidency.

In the end, I feel that the fact that there isn’t always a clear-cut answer as to how much various factors will affect a politician’s campaign is what truly tests a politician’s ability to be adaptive. Election results, court opinions, and the view of the American public are constantly changing. However, if a candidate is dynamic enough to be able to deal with these changes, he or she will be able to find the way to victory.




  1. Melissa,

    Wonderful and thought provoking post. I really enjoyed the way you took a current issue and applied some historical context. I also love your statement in the last paragraph, “In the end, I feel that the fact that there isn’t always a clear-cut answer as to how much various factors will affect a politician’s campaign is what truly tests a politician’s ability to be adaptive.” Do you feel like it is more important for politicians to be adaptive or consistent? Or is there a difference?


  2. Melissa– I like how you framed the discussion as one of “adaptability” of a candidate rather than just “spin.” “Spin” would imply that the words used by the candidate would change based on the outcome, but not necessarily the actions… “Adaptability” implies that there will be action in addition to words, depending on the outcome. I think that no matter the side fo the argument that one is on, one would prefer some type of active response, right? Thanks, as always, for posting your thoughts. Your class is doing fantastic work! – Brad


  3. A president has to be very selective when picking a fight with other branches of government. Americans like the system of checks and balances. When the Republicans didn’t want to extend the payroll tax cut in January, President Obama took them on, and prevailed. But he seems to want to pick a fight with the Supreme Court every time it rules in a way he doesn’t like. His lambasting them at the State of the Union address was something I’d expect from Putin. Many legal experts have been saying for years that an individual mandate would not survive scrutiny, but he pushed ahead with it anyway, and now hopes to bully the Supreme Court into looking the other way. The American public wants a president who can work within the system to bring people together. This was the great promise of Obama, and indeed it caused me to vote for him, my first vote ever for a Democratic presidential candidate. Alas, he has in some respects turned out to be a bully who wants to be a dictator.

    More on FDR’s disastrous court-packing plan.–FDR-Suggests–Court-Packing–Plan.html


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