Alarm Bells Ringing
Long-time Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne is a gracious, genial, generous, good-hearted (I could go on with more “g” words, let alone the rest of the alphabet, but you get the idea) columnist and commentator—quick to speak kindly of his political opponents, assume their best intentions, and grant the plausibility of their arguments.
So when someone like Dionne writes a column like this about the performance of the Supreme Court’s conservative bloc at this week’s oral arguments over the fate of the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), it’s the Washington pundit equivalent of the smoke alarms blaring and sprinkler system kicking on in an office building. Pay attention because the building might be about to go up in flames—and lots of people could get hurt.
Liberals should learn from this display that there is no point in catering to today’s hard-line conservatives. The individual mandate was a conservative idea that President Obama adopted to preserve the private market in health insurance rather than move toward a government-financed, single-payer system. What he got back from conservatives was not gratitude but charges of socialism — for adopting their own proposal.
If the Court rules Obamacare unconstitutional (in full or in part), then it should be crystal clear—if it wasn’t already after Bush v. Gore and Citizens United v. FEC—that we have a Supreme Court majority like that of the late 19th and early 20th centuries: one more committed to its own ideological and political preferences than it is to the Constitution, the law, and to providing justice for all.