Political Hay

How Are Those Supreme Court Attacks Working Out for You?

The president's bullying comes back to haunt him -- though he's right to compare himself to the Court-villifying FDR.

By 4.10.12

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On Monday, polling company Rasmussen released results of a survey of likely voters showing that in less than one month the percentage of Americans who rate the Supreme Court's job performance as good or excellent has spiked up 13 points, from an all-time low of 28 percent to a two-and-a-half year high of 41 percent. This time frame includes the Court's hearings on Obamacare as well as the thinly-veiled Obama warning to the Court not to strike down his signature law.

In other words, now that Americans have been reminded what the Court is there for, they are more positive about its theoretical and actual function.

In the Rasmussen poll, the change in opinion of the Court among Republicans has gone from 29 percent favorable to 54 percent favorable. Not surprisingly, Democrats aren't on board the Supreme Court favorability train: Rasmussen doesn't give the numbers but says that Democrats' "views of the court are largely unchanged."

Most important politically, "among voters not affiliated with either of the major political parties, good or excellent ratings for the court have increased from 26% in mid-March to 42% now."

Also among the poll results -- and more bad news for Democrats -- twice as many Americans believe that the Supreme Court "does not limit the government enough" (30 percent) as those who think it "puts too many limitations on what the federal government can do" (15 percent).

How does picking that fight feel now, Mr. President?

It is lucky for Republicans that President Barack Obama lives in a radical leftist echo chamber which reinforces his delusions that he's the second coming of FDR -- as well as of Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, just to name a few.

Obama is a poor student of history, and not just of Supreme Court history despite his prior position as a "Senior Lecturer" in constitutional law. And without understanding the past, the president thinks of FDR's 1930s attack on the Supreme Court as part and parcel of Roosevelt's being elected to the presidency four times.

This explains Obama's rhetoric all but daring the Court to strike down Obamacare, or at least its individual mandate provision -- a dare that Judge Jeffrey Smith recently challenged the administration to defend. The defense, in the form of a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder, reeked of "you can do it, but you really shouldn't" condescension, and notably did not claim to represent the views of President Obama, but simply of the Justice Department.

What the echoes from Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod, and Debbie "We can call it 'Obamacare' now" Wasserman Schultz will miss is that attacking the Court was not a political success for FDR, with support for Roosevelt's court-packing plan falling under opposition among the public within about one month of the plan's announcement, and never recovering.

The public may not love the Supreme Court but that does not mean they support its assault by other branches of government. Now, as in 1937, Republicans, out of some mixture of principle and politics, were forceful in defense of the Court's independence. But then as now, it was not only Republicans who objected to the presidents' tyrannical overreach.

In a 1937 editorial, presaging public reaction against Democrats and FDR the following year, William Allen White, the Progressive editor of the Emporia (Kansas) Gazette, railed against Roosevelt's assault on the independence of the Supreme Court: "But while crying against these economic royalists [much like Obama's demonization of "the 1 percent"] he would seem to have harbored subconsciously a seven-devil lust to become an unconstitutional royalist himself."

White continued: "[T]hose who scorn the orderly processes of democracy, those leaders who by instinctive indirection slip around our laws and annul the basic implications of American democracy, they become a menace more deadly than the economic royalists whom Roosevelt denounces."

Perhaps Obama's self-comparisons to the anti-constitution FDR are not so far-fetched after all.

In the 1938 mid-term elections, Republicans gained House seats for the first time in a decade, picking up a stunning 81 seats in the House of Representatives, or 18.6 percent of that chamber. Even the Republican tsunami of 2010 only caused a GOP pickup of 63 seats, or 14.4 percent, although Republicans began the most recent mid-term elections with twice as many seats (178) as the party held during their hapless years going into 1938 (88).

Much like George W. Bush in the last decade, in the 1920s, Herbert Hoover did substantial damage to the Republican brand, saddling the GOP with back to back disastrous elections (in 1930 and 1932, in which Republicans lost a total of 148 House seats); 1938 marked the first Republican gains in the House for a decade and the first gains in a mid-term election since 1918.

It is true that FDR won re-election in 1940, and perhaps this is the bulletin that is bouncing around inside the White House echo chamber, but FDR was far more popular than Barack Obama, and the nation was heading into war -- always an advantage for an incumbent. While Republicans remained the minority party in Congress, the 1938 landslide following FDR's court-packing scheme remains the largest gain for either party in the House of Representatives since 1894 and arguably ended any expansion of the New Deal.

Because Democrats either don't know this or don't think the lessons of history apply to them, the Obama administration has been shocked -- shocked! -- that its verbal mugging of the Court has been politically ineffective at best. Perhaps, like Obamacare itself, the administration believed that once we really understood its position, we'd come to like it better.

As usual, its projections don't reflect reality, and now the Rasmussen data support the obvious fact that attacking the Court isn't working outside of the left's already-committed base.

An interesting political question remains how a Supreme Court decision will impact the presidential election. Democrats, such as James Carville, suggest that if the Court overturns the law (or the mandate), it will be a tremendous benefit to Democrat electoral hopes. Color me skeptical.

Even Democrat pollster Pat Caddell says that Obamacare is likely be a political loser for Barack Obama, whether or not he wins reelection -- and deserves to be, because of how the law destroys consumer choice, raises prices, and centralizes health care decisions and power in Washington.

As Scott Rasmussen put it in a recent op-ed, "For something as fundamental as medical care, government policy must be consistent with deeply held American values. That's why an approach that increases consumer choice has solid support and a plan that relies on mandates and trusting the government cannot survive."

Obamacare and the role of the Supreme Court will be a fierce debate, and is likely to remain central to the presidential campaign regardless of the Court's verdict. It is too early to know just how the arguments will play out, or who will win them.

But what we do know is that the president's echo chamber will keep him mired, at least on these issues, in leftist talking points that those outside the bubble would recognize as ineffective campaign material, not least because of the lessons of the 1930s.

For the Democrats' narcissistic, historically ignorant group-think, perfectly exemplified by the president's attacks on the Supreme Court, Republicans should be grateful. It is one of the few reasons a moderately inspiring GOP nominee may be able to beat a dangerous and incompetent but "historic" incumbent president.

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About the Author
Ross Kaminsky is a self-employed trader and investor and is a senior fellow of the Heartland Institute. He is the host of The Ross Kaminsky Show on Denver's NewsRadio 850 KOA on Saturday mornings from 6 AM to 9 AM. You can reach Ross by e-mail at rossputin(at)rossputin(dot)com.