I continue to believe that, all other things considered, removing ObamaCare via repeal rather than court decision is the preferable small-d democratic thing to do, and is ultimately better for the country. Forty years plus of judicial activism have shown than when courts legislate, they divide and do damage to the nation. Roe v Wade for instance did not settle anything, but has set off decades of intractable social war.
But as reports emerge of the twists that led Chief Justice John Roberts to switch his vote and uphold ObamaCare on the ground that the individual mandate is a tax, an unsettling truth comes clear: The Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court is a reed in the political wind.
I hate to be so critical of a man I admired but have never met, but if the reports are accurate, then here is what happened. Roberts was among the justices who wanted to strike ObamaCare down on the constitutionality of the individual mandate as it relates to Congress’ powers under the commerce clause. Those justices constituted a majority but they may have disagreed over whether the mandate was severable from the rest of the law. At the same time, a campaign of media pressure from the left got to Roberts, and as the pressure mounted, he caved and switched his vote to uphold the law.
The campaign against overturning ObamaCare was always nakedly political. It was always about saving the tattered legacy of a failed president. It was about saving that president’s signature legislation, which was an unpopular and partisan power grab predicated on a false premise: That our health care system is in some kind of crisis. It is not. It never was. The majority of Americans who have coverage like it and want to keep it. If there is a crisis, it is in health insurance costs, not health care itself. ObamaCare has, instead of alleviating a crisis (which doesn’t exist), exacerbated a bad economic environment and fundamentally changed the nation. We’re subjects of the IRS and DHS now, instead of sovereign citizens. ObamaCare also threatens to bankrupt state budgets.
Anyone who paid any attention at all could see that the likes of Bob Beckel and Alan Colmes would defend President Obama and his health care law no matter what. They did not even bother to read it before supporting it. The same was always true for the editorial pages at the New York Times and the Washington Post. They never cared what the Affordable Care Act meant for our constitutional republic or what it would actually do to the economy. Democrats supported it because it empowered government and shifted American politics seismically to the left. Democrats supported ObamaCare because it was their bill and did what they wanted.
But the chief justice, apparently, did not see this. He paid attention to the political election year criticisms of his court, and he caved.
If that is the truth, then John Roberts lacks the intestinal fortitude of the average conservative soccer mom who gets slammed with liberals and liberalism by the local loudmouth at the kids’ practice and stands her ground. He lacks the political judgement of the average conservative county commissioner who manages to resist everyday moonbattery at the local level. If it’s true that Roberts buckled to media pressure, then he will bend in the direction of the loudest mouths and will do very great damage to the Constitution in the coming years.
It’s one thing to see a formerly conservative justice “grow” in office as his jurisprudential instincts get tugged left. It’s frustrating, but feels like less of a sucker punch. If Roberts buckled to such obvious political bluster as was thrown at him in this case, then Chief Justice John Roberts is a chicken and a coward. He will spend decades on the court treating what’s left of American liberty to a thousand deaths. We may as well dub him “Brave Sir Robin” and get used to the idea of a Quisling on the court controlled by the most vicious liberal mouths and the monolithic leftist bloc on the court itself. We might as well admit that James Carville and David Axelrod have the “conservative” chief justice on their leash and can make him roll over with a voice command.