Here’s a collection of thoughts that have been running through my head these past couple of days, ever since the historic Supreme Court ruling that upheld the Affordable Healthcare Act.
Obamacare and baseball. The Republicans are like a baseball team that, having lost 3-0 in a nine-inning game, refuse to get off the field. Instead of shaking hands with their opponents and starting to prepare for the next game, the Republicans demand to play extra innings until they wind up with the lead and the win.
Baseball doesn’t work that way. And neither does America. In the battle over Obamacare (as even the Democrats now call it), the Republicans lost in the House, lost in the Senate, and lost in the Supreme Court. It’s time to move on. Perhaps, if Romney wins the presidency, there will be a chance for a rematch. But let’s cross that bridge if and when we come to it. In the meantime, there are more important things to worry about than games that have already been decided.
Justice Roberts and conscience. I never thought I’d be saying this today, but I have new-found respect for Chief Justice Roberts. No matter how he votes on cases in the future, and I am certain I will often disagree with his votes, I will feel much more confident that his decisions are based on conscience rather than partisanship. That’s all I can ask. My change of heart is not primarily derived from his critical vote, a vote that created the 5-4 majority in favor of upholding the Affordable Healthcare Act. That helped. But that’s not all. More significant were the words in his written opinion:
“It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices…We (the Supreme Court) do not consider whether the act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the nation’s elected leaders.”
In other words, a justice’s vote should not derive from whether they believe a law is good or agrees with their political viewpoint, only whether it is constitutional. I agree 100%. If only all the other eight justices followed that principle.
How can you tell what’s inside the head of a Justice? One way is to try out hypothetical tests. Here’s one: If Romney were president back in 2008 and he had passed a version of Romneycare with the support of a Republican Congress (basing his support on the law’s success in Massachusetts and the fact that it was originally a Republican idea), and the Democrats had challenged it, and the law arrived at the Supreme Court, do you think the justices would have voted the same way as they did this week? If you answer no for any justice, then that justice is voting out of partisanship not conscience or law.
And my number one candidate for an obviously partisan judge is Antonin Scalia. Check out these two recent articles: “Antonin Scalia, ranting old man” and “Time for Scalia to seek his true vocation – politician.” They say it better than I ever could.
The minority. It is still hard for me to see how the minority of the Court on this decision would have not only struck down the individual mandate provision, but the entire law. Even if you think the other parts would not be viable without the mandate, that’s for Congress to determine. As long as the provisions are constitutional, they should remain. And they were.
Speaking of minority opinions, I still have trouble wrapping myself around the notion that having half the Court disagree with a decision is irrelevant. A 5-4 decision means the same as a 9-0 decision. But that’s the way our country works. I accept it.
Popularity. People keep citing the low popularity of Obamacare among the American public. It’s true. It’s also true that people very much like many of the provisions of the law. If the Democrats can ever manage to aggressively explain and defend the law (something they have shown no inclination to do up till now), I believe many minds could be changed. Also, as more of the provisions go into effect, and people see it working well, minds will be changed.
I believe that, for many Republicans, the rush to overturn Obamacare stems not from their belief that it is a bad law but from fear that it will ultimately turn out to be a good law, one that wins popular support. This would mean a huge political loss for the right.
The extremes. I continue to be surprised by the level of vitriol in this country right now. It’s one thing to believe that Obamacare is bad law. That’s a legitimate debate. I happen to believe the law is a move in the right direction, even though it is far from perfect. But I understand others disagree. Heck, there are people on both the left and the right that believe it is a bad law, but for very different reasons. Regardless, the survival of this law does not mean the end of this country, or freedom, or the world. Some of the comments I see posted on the web are simply beyond belief. Here are two examples:
A reader commenting on the Supreme Court decision wrote: “The fire in the belly of the right had better be ignited immediately or the country will fall totally into Marxism and become a flaming dictatorship.”
Give me a break.
And a Michigan attorney who has held positions in the state Republican Party wrote: “If government can mandate that I pay for something I don’t want, then what is beyond its power? …Has the Republic all but ceased to exist? If so, then is armed rebellion today justified? God willing, this oppression will be lifted and America free again before the first shot is fired.”
Krugman. As if often the case, I agree with Paul Krugman. I’ll let him have the last word on this week’s ruling:
“In short, unless you belong to that tiny class of wealthy Americans who are insulated and isolated from the realities of most people’s lives, the winners from that Supreme Court decision are your friends, your relatives, the people you work with — and, very likely, you. For almost all of us stand to benefit from making America a kinder and more decent society.”