There are at least three positives to the court’s ruling.
First, Roberts protected the integrity of the court from charges it acted on ideological grounds alone. The court left in place a law President Obama will have to answer to voters for in November — an unwieldy, frighteningly expensive attempt to solve the very serious American healthcare problem.
No longer can the left say with a straight face this is a conservative court. Just in recent days, it has handed President Obama two significant victories — it struck down three of the most controversial provisions of the Arizona immigration law and upheld Obamacare.
This sort of attack on the court has been around for as long as I can remember. Democrats will always charge the court unseemly partisanship when it rules, or they think it's about to rule, against them. I guarantee this will happen again the next time they think they're about to lose a case. In fact, they're even more likely to do so since it seems Roberts changed his vote to appease these kind of accusations. People tend to stick with what works and this worked.
Secondly, we now have the foundation for a bright-line rule on how far the Commerce Clause can reach. As Brad Plumer at The Washington Post wrote, “Basically, the court ruled that Congress can regulate existing interstate commercial activity, but it can’t directly force people to enter into a market (by, say, requiring them to purchase health insurance).”
The ruling on the Commerce clause would be a great thing if it hadn't been followed immediately with a decision that Congress can simply tax us into submission.
Finally, by calling the mandate a “tax,” Roberts has handed conservatives a game plan for repeal. Obviously, Mitt Romney must win the White House, and Republicans need to come away from November with control of both houses of Congress. This trifecta will be hard to achieve, but if Republicans can achieve it — thanks to the ruling that the mandate is a tax — they will be able to bypass the 60-vote requirement to cut off debate in the Senate.
I actually agree that there is a silver lining. This does make repeal in Congress easier. Not as easy, however, as ruling that it wasn't a tax and was therefore unconstitutional.