Thursday, 28 June 2012

In which the author ventures briefly into US Constitutional law and Obamacare

I have only read a short summary of what the Supreme Court said and did today, but as I have watched all the attention being focused on Chief Justice Roberts in particular I have had two thoughts:  

One.  Imagine the burden of responsibility he has carried, knowing for who knows how long that his would be the deciding vote on the defining legislative initiative of the Obama presidency, and surely one of the most important - and divisive - pieces of US domestic public policy since Lyndon Baines Johnson was president nearly half a century ago.  

Two.  We often think of American conservatism as an activist ideology, one stream of which holds that the Supreme Court's role is to insist upon the Constitutional founders' intent, and to constrain Congress accordingly.  But there is another strain of conservatism, which is about respecting the centrality of democratically elected and accountable politicians and political processes in debating and deciding the most important questions of a society, and to leave with the people that which is most truly and profoundly political.  And that's really what Justice Roberts did today.  He decided not to second-guess the wisdom of Congress.  Come November the American people will get to decide the fate of Obama's health care program, and isn't that where the decision-making power should really lie?

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