Today’s Supreme Court decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, is watershed and a game changer. Simply put, Roberts’ decision will change the face of healthcare in America because now not only is it constitutional, it forces the GOP to be in favor of actual reform (something they’ve only given lip-service to for years).
The conventional wisdom inside the D.C. beltway today was that “Obamacare” (or ACA) would be struck down by a 5-4 decision and that the decision would be written by Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy. Very few in the smart crowd actually thought a) Roberts would side with the liberal Justices and b) that the nexus of agreement between that unlikely group would be Congress’ ability to levy a tax versus whether or not the individual mandate was constitutional under the Commerce Clause.
That’s a lot of D.C.-speak, which sounds remarkably similar to Charlie Brown’s teacher: “whonk whonk whonk whonk whonk.” What this reminds me of is the fallout from Brown vs. Board of Education, something a large number of Americans remember or have studied in civics class.
In Brown, the Court combined several high profile cases into one and issued a sweeping ruling. Like Brown, ACA was highly controversial leading up to oral argument before the Court and after the subsequent ruling. Social unrest throughout many parts of the country was prevalent, notably with Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, Alabama George Wallace, Virginia Senator Harry Byrd’s “Massive Resistance” and the “Southern Manifesto.” For the record, all of these men were Southern Democrats.
The political outrage was palpable then and it is today. I’ve written before that the day President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, he told his aides he had delivered “the South to the Republican party for a long time to come.” I’m not sure what happens at the ballot box this November or precisely how today’s ruling will affect the public’s perception. What I do know is the opinion issued today by Chief Justice Roberts matters. It matters because it validates Congress’ actions, which declared universal healthcare to be something we should strive towards. That we are the wealthiest and most powerful country in the history of the world but with over 22 million uninsured is embarrassing and the Roberts court today has said what Congress did is perhaps not popular but without a doubt legitimate.
Legitimacy matters to me and ultimately I believe to the American people.