How Republicans made it possible for the Supreme Court to rule against the mandate
Ezra Klein, Washington Post, 6/26/12
It wasn’t easy for Barack Obama to persuade David Axelrod to take him on as a client. It took years, actually. But there was a reason Obama wanted Axelrod to run his campaigns. Axelrod knew how to get black candidates elected by white voters. In fact, he had a whole theory about it.
In a 2008 profile of Axelrod in the New Republic, Jason Zengerle quoted Ken Snyder, a Democratic consultant and Axelrod protege, on his mentor’s approach. “David felt there almost had to be a permission structure set up for certain white voters to consider a black candidate.” The “permission structure” relied heavily on “third-party authentication“ — endorsements from respected figures or institutions that the targeted voters admired.
If you think back to the 2008 campaign, Axelrod was slowly building this permission structure around Obama. Right before Super Tuesday, Axelrod rolled out the endorsements of Ted and Caroline Kennedy. Right before the election, he rolled out Colin Powell. The timing and nature of the endorsements were meant to make an African American candidate with an international upbringing and the name Barack Hussein Obama into someone that Ohio steelworkers could feel comfortable voting for. If Ted Kennedy and Colin Powell can back this guy, so can you.
But permission structures aren’t just for elections. Over the past two years, the Republican Party has slowly been building a permission structure for the five Republicans on the Supreme Court to feel comfortable doing something nobody thought they could do: Violate the existing understanding of the commerce clause and, in perhaps the most significant moment of judicial activism since the New Deal, overturn either all or part of the Affordable Care Act.