Jerry Kremer

Who will decide who wins in 2020?

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Have you ever heard the words “tasseography” or “tassology”? In plain English, it’s the practice of reading the patterns of tea leaves, coffee grounds or wine sediments to tell the future. I have concluded that these substances are just as reliable as all the political polls, the talking heads on cable television and the work of Washington investigative reporters in determining what will happen in the 2020 election.

I decided to check out the tea leaves from my favorite brew, and they told me about one factor that could decide who the next president will be. Like it or not, the U.S. Supreme Court has before it three cases that may determine who will be sitting in the White House in January 2021. The pending cases with the biggest political overtones will affect the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade.

The DACA case encompasses as many as 800,000 children who were born in the United States to parents who were not citizens. They are the innocent targets of the Trump administration, which favors deporting them to countries they have never lived in. It is estimated that 85 percent of those who benefit from the program are either gainfully employed or are attending schools in this country. They rarely commit crimes and are considered good and stable people.

Should the court decide that the Obama administration decision to allow them to stay in America was illegal, their immigration status would be immediately threatened. During his campaign in 2016, candidate Donald Trump stated that he was “sympathetic to their cause” and pledged to work with the Congress to resolve their status. Once in office, the president reneged on his promise and launched a challenge that could result in their deportation.

The next court case that will cause enormous political tremors involves the legality of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Over 20 million Americans rely on it for their basic health care. For the first two years of the Trump administration, the ACA was under constant attack. It survived a congressional assault thanks to a vote cast in the Senate by the late John McCain. While Congress was fiddling with Obamacare, a group of state attorneys general initiated their own lawsuit to wipe out the protections of the act. In 2018, the Trump administration joined the lawsuit, which is now before the highest court.

In the event that the ACA is judged to be illegal, it’s not hard to imagine the chaos that would follow. Congress is paralyzed on this issue, and would be unable to come up with any quick solutions. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has shown no interest in saving health care, and has left the final decision to Trump, who has promised to come up with a plan if he is re-elected. What do you tell the millions of people who would be without health coverage if the court decided against Obamacare?

The third crucial matter before the court that could cause an election upheaval is the fate of Roe v. Wade. A highly restrictive Louisiana law on abortion has made it to the Supreme Court. It will be argued in the next few months, and a decision is expected by next June. With two new conservative justices on the court, there is a stronger likelihood that Roe vs Wade will be struck down and abortion law left to the states. Neither option is a good one.

Fast-forward to next June and think about what will happen to the political landscape if all of these issues go the wrong way. Whoever the Democratic presidential candidate ends up being could be a decisive winner come November. If Trump is still the Republican candidate, GOP politicians will face colossal challenges to their survival.

But the worst news will be that America will likely be more polarized than at any other time in our history. So, while you’re watching the craziness of cable news, pick up a cup of tea or coffee or check your wine bottle to try to divine from the residue whether it will be the Supreme Court, and not the voters, who will decide the election winner.

Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.