Jeffrey Toobin’s declaration that this week’s Supreme Court hearings are a “train wreck” at best and maybe even a “plane wreck” has depressed some health care reform supporters and others to see a silver lining in their signature domestic policy achievement being struck down.
That assessment from Toobin and other court-watchers should have conservatives — particularly the tea partiers whose No. 1 cause has been the law’s demise — dancing in the streets. Instead, the same groups that staged chaotic protests and heated town hall sideshows in response to health care reform are keeping cool heads, either ignoring the speculation game or urging fellow “Obamacare” haters not to count their chickens before they’re hatched.
The tea party and its favorite politicians aren’t just wary of jumping the gun on a potential victory for their side. Some say they’re afraid the court won’t rule their way if it senses unsportsmanlike conduct.
That’s certainly Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) concern.
“If I had a high level of confidence, even if it were 99 percent, I would not want to make the kind of prediction that could, let me say, potentially affect and impact a decision over there in the court,” King told TPM on an RNC conference call Wednesday.
King would only go as far as saying he understood “why the liberals are discouraged,” but made it clear that declaring victory was premature.
Democrats don’t seem as worried about what the court might think of their reactions to the case. As TPM’s Sahil Kapur reported Wednesday, Democrats are publicly warning the court about what will happen if it rules against them.
“This court would not only have to stretch, it would have to abandon and completely overrule a lot of modern precedent, which would do grave damage to this court, in its credibility and power,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
Other conservatives are reminding their fellow Affordable Care Act opponents that it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.
“Let’s not get too excited about Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court oral argument on #ObamaCare before the decision,” Donald Trump tweeted on Wednesday. “No one can read the justices’ minds.”
“I’m a former corporate litigator, and I’ve won cases that I thought I was going to lose and I’ve lost cases that I thought I was going to win,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told TPM on the conference call. “So I think you’ve got to just do your best and take every day as you can.”
“You don’t talk about a no-hitter in the eighth or ninth inning,” Priebus said.
At a tea party rally in D.C. directly following Toobin’s grim assessment Tuesday, court speculation (let alone spiking the ball) was nowhere to be found. One of the leaders of the movement told TPM at the rally that “the parlor game of trying to figure out which justice is leaning what way, that’s just not what we do.”
Contrast this with commentators on the left who are already anticipating defeat — and turning the court hearings into a Democratic circular firing squad. The White House has been forced to publicly defend its own solicitor general after court observers on the left blamed him for putting the health care law in peril with weak arguments. DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was forced to push back on James Carville after he said losing the court case would be good for Democrats.
Meanwhile, the GOP is digging in for a long and multi-faceted political fight. Americans For Prosperity President Tim Phillips told TPM at the tea party rally Tuesday that their focus is still on removing ACA-supporting politicians from office in the fall — he didn’t expect the court ruling to change that. Even King said the end of the court case is likely not the end of the fight — no matter which way the court rules
“If there’s a victory dance I want to do that after the court’s decision and then after the Congress repeals the remnants if there are any remnants or pulls it all out,” he said. “It’s long mess ahead of us, and I certainly think an endzone celebration now could be a little bit early.”