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The result, a snapshot of the national reaction to Thursday's ruling before anyone had had much time to think about it, is interesting for one reason: On Tuesday CNN had reported the findings of another poll, this one from NBC News/Wall Street Journal. It found that 28 percent of Americans said they'd be pleased if the Court ruled Obamacare constitutional, and 35 percent said they'd be disappointed.
That's a big swing in four days. What happened?
My theory? The Supreme Court happened. Before the Court finally spoke, roughly 70 percent of the debate over Obamacare and 90 percent of the noise had come from the opposition (those numbers are seat-of-the-pants estimates); and among the opposition it was axiomatic that the president's health plan was unconstitutional.
Loudly and repeatedly, they said so. Here's the Tea Party Express's "Hands Out of My Healthcare!" petition. It begins: "The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is an unprecedented overreach of federal power aimed at redefining the Constitution and distorting the intentions of our nation’s Founding Fathers."
Here's a statement issued in March by Joe Walsh, a Republican congressman from Illinois's Eighth District: "Obamacare never should have been run through Congress and rammed down America’s throat two years ago. It seems like every day we find some new job-killing regulation or unconstitutional provision, and it will only get worse."
But then the Supreme Court said Obamacare is constitutional. It's sort of like Obama's birth certificate turning up in Hawaii. That didn't shut up all the birthers, and Chief Justice John Roberts's opinion won't shut up the hard-core haters of Obamacare. For instance, the day the Court spoke, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky asserted, "Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be 'constitutional' does not make it so. The whole thing remains unconstitutional."
And the next day Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina thundered, "This government takeover of health care remains as destructive, unsustainable, and unconstitutional as it was the day it was passed."
But among rank-and-file Americans—the ones who according to earlier polls didn't approve of the health care act even though they liked what was in it—I'm guessing the Supreme Court ruling has made a big difference. They didn't understand Obamacare very well, it hadn't made a measurable difference to their lives, and they kept hearing it was unconstitutional. So of course they said they didn't like it.
But if it is constitutional—and now they know it is—what's the problem exactly?
A lot of fists have just been shaken and vows sworn that in November the awakened Republican base will exact its revenge. Maybe so. But I think I hear the hiss of hot air leaking out of a balloon.