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Calling Obama’s Bluff

10:39 AM, Oct 12, 2012 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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Less than a year ago, voters went to the polls in Ohio and resoundingly rejected Obamacare’s individual mandate. Actually, that’s an understatement.  Voters in all 88 counties of Ohio rejected it, and in all but seven of those counties they did so by a margin of at least 20 percentage points.  Even in Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland is located and where Barack Obama beat John McCain by a margin of better than two-to-one (68 to 30 percent), voters not only rejected Obamacare’s individual mandate but did so by a margin of 16 points (58 to 42 percent). 


To be sure, Ohioans don’t have the power to cancel out Obamacare’s individual mandate any more than the residents of any other single state do (unless, of course, Ohio becomes the deciding state in the presidential election).  If Obamacare isn’t repealed, then its individual mandate would be imposed on Americans in every state.  The Ohio vote, therefore, was essentially symbolic, but what it demonstrates is this:  The individual mandate is likely the most unpopular part of President Obama’s horribly unpopular centerpiece legislation.  As such, it’s perhaps his greatest political vulnerability.

This past summer, the Supreme Court rejected the Obama administration’s argument that Congress had the authority to impose the individual mandate under its power to regulate interstate commerce.  Having rejected the administration’s argument, the only reason the Court didn’t strike down the mandate as unconstitutional was because Chief Justice John Roberts (and the four Obama or Clinton appointees) thought it could be shoehorned into being called a tax — albeit a tax of an unprecedented nature — and upheld on that basis. 

The only good thing about the Court’s allowing the mandate to survive was that it left its fate up to the American people. As Roberts somewhat indelicately put it in his opinion, “[P]olicy judgments…are entrusted to our Nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them.”  Roberts also explicitly reminded everyone that, when it comes to the “wisdom” of Obamacare, “that judgment is reserved to the people.”

A Newsweek/Daily Beast poll of likely voters taken shortly after the opinion was released indicated that the Court’s ruling had shifted support to Mitt Romney.  By a margin of 21 points (32 to 11 percent), voters said they were more, rather than less, apt to vote for Romney in the wake of the ruling.  And by a margin of 15 points (29 to 14 percent), voters said they were less, rather than more, apt to vote for Obama.

Yet ever since then, the Romney campaign and pretty much the entire Republican party has refused to press this exceptional political vulnerability of Obama’s.  Paul Ryan unleashed several powerful attacks last night against Obamacare, principally its $716 billion raid of Medicare; its establishment of the grisly Independent Payment Advisory Board, which would further reduce seniors’ access to care; and its assault on religious freedom.  Still, something seemed to be missing from the indictment.  Perhaps that’s because, as in the presidential debate, voters’ number-one objection to Obamacare wasn’t mentioned. 

Why have Americans so recoiled against the individual mandate, opposing it more strongly than any other single part of Obamacare?  Perhaps it’s because the mandate is the piece of Obamacare that best crystalizes its extraordinary affront to liberty — and hence to our founding ideals.  As Ryan emphatically put it in this outstanding short speech on the day of the Obamacare vote, “Our Founders got it right….[Obamacare] tramples upon the principles that have made America so exceptional….This is not who we are.”

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