It's not quite Bush v. Gore, but the Supreme Court might very well decide the 2016 presidential race this month, writes Dahlia Lithwick at Slate. It's all about how the justices rule on the ObamaCare challenge and on gay marriage, but perhaps not in the way you might think. For example, Lithwick cites a consensus in both parties that a ruling against ObamaCare would be disastrous for the GOP. It would create a mess, forcing millions of people, Republicans included, to lose their health care as their state-created exchanges vanish. GOP senators and governors in the 34 potentially affected states would be on shaky ground in particular, but it would also pressure Republicans in general into finding a remedy for these people. And that would put them in the position of "propping up ObamaCare," angering the conservative base.
A similar political calculus applies on gay marriage. A ruling against it makes it a key issue in 2016, and Republicans would then be staking out a position opposed by the majority of Americans. Justices aren't supposed to take these kinds of calculations into consideration, of course, but remember that four of the justices are over the age of 75, writes Lithwick. "Even justices who don’t think about politics in terms of stark wins and losses might be tempted to do so when it could mean that the president who will someday fill their seats can either dismantle their judicial legacies or bolster them." As Lithwick puts it, a justice might wonder, "'Oh my God. Am I helping to seat the next Justice Goodwin Liu?'" Click for Lithwick's full column.