Papering over a Reactionary Supreme Court
To the shock of most commentators, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal wing of the Supreme Court yesterday to uphold almost the entire Affordable Care Act. Had he not done so, the Court’s historically low public confidence of 25% would have plummeted even further. Many pundits claim that Roberts saved the Court from becoming an overtly partisan operator, but it seems to have escaped almost everyone that four of the nine Justices threw away their legal training and attempted to axe the entire health care reform because they dislike, perhaps on a political level more than anything else, President Obama’s policy.
In the past, the Court has struck down laws in their entirely only when the essence is unconstitutional. While the individual mandate was a prominent part of the ACA, it was only a means to fund it, a tool of implementation. Without it, the reforms could still be carried out. Yet the Court was about to throw everything back at Obama; it was as if they would tear up the entire criminal code because one sentence for criminals was excessive.
The ACA is a set of reforms that illustrate the schizophrenic politics of many Americans. Most of its parts are strongly supported by the majority of Americans, who nevertheless want to see the totality destroyed. At least they do so on largely political grounds. Four of the five conservatives on the Court are no better, and probably far worse, judging from their latest opinions.