Liberalism Jumps the Shark on Obamacare
One of the greatest sleights of hand in political history has been the cultural coup liberalism has waged on American life since the 1960's, a takeover accomplished with few votes actually cast in its favor. How does a group that numbers a mere 20% of the American population (give or take) according to Gallup, foist its ideas on an American public that largely rejects its them?
The strategy is quite simple. First, stay away from the ballot box as much as possible. Liberalism identified as such is usually rejected when it is flushed out into the open and clearly seen. Adlai Stevenson lost twice. George McGovern lost 49 states. Barack Obama ran as a stealth moderate, the so-called "post-partisan" presidential candidate. So what to do? First portray liberalism as trendy in Hollywood and popular culture. "Will and Grace" did more to legitimize gay marriage than any position paper or debate. Second, change liberalism's name. Rebrand yourselves. Call it "progressivism." Third, dress radical ideas in the personality of cool, rational demeanor. From Saul Alinsky to Barack Obama, dressing up radical ideas in moderate personas has worked for the Left, making its leaders appear more reasonable than their ideas. Fourth, make sure you are evaluated on your good intentions and not on results. Fifth, get the mainstream media to treat all ideas other than the inevitable march of liberalism as backward, wacky, racist, homophobic or misogynistic.. And finally, make liberalism the ocean in which everyone swims, an existence equally beyond analysis or consequences for its policies. Then wait for the inevitable. So far so good.
One the greatest tools in the hands of liberals to accomplish this takeover has undoubtedly been the Supreme Court. Without the help of the federal bench, sweeping change would not have been possible. Specifically, law schools and top legal thinkers have easily spun with impunity a phony "living constitution," or the idea that the founders were "unable anticipate the modern world," opening the way to judicial activism. Liberals have also planted in the minds of the average person what Oliver Wendell Holmes hoped they would. Holmes said, "The Constitution is what the justices says it is," an idea that removes constitutional interpretation far from the other two branches of government, where the founders firmly placed it. The result has been sweeping social change from Roe v. Wade, to Lawrence v. Texas, to McCain/Feingold, which undermined state laws, created new rights like "privacy," contradicted traditional understandings of morality or violated fundamental constitutional freedoms. As long as the populace never had a vote on it, the march of liberalism continued unabated.
But times are a' changin and the backlash to liberalism may be "blowin' in the wind." In the debate on Obamacare, we may just be seeing the end of liberalism's run through American jurisprudence, if not American culture. We should have seen this coming. First there was the Supreme Court ruling that the right to bear arms was fundamental and could not simply be interpreted constitutionally as referring to militias or standing armies. Then the Citizens United case threw out McCain-Feingold to the shock of many liberals who, in their minds, had safely differentiated between citizens and corporations. Not so, said the court, affirming that corporations are simply gatherings of citizens uniting to express political speech. But all this was simply setting the stage for the biggest over-reach of them all, namely Obamacare, to emerge in full public view.
The public rejected the legislation in spades at the ballot box in 2010 and it looks like the court is going to follow suit. Like the current unraveling of Europe's welfare state, we might be looking at civilizational change here as well. PT Forsyth called Europe a "cut-flower civilization." The blooms might be beautiful, but the substance is dead, cut-off from what once made it great. The post-war welfare state is unsustainable in its present form. Here, the Ryan Plan is the only thing this side of Bowles-Simpson that actually fixes the problem of endless increasing debt.
The best indicator of what might happen to The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) might be the reaction of the liberal media to the questions raised by the justices during oral arguments. Slate.com accused conservative justices and Anthony Kennedy of advancing "Tea Party cleverisms" that "sounded like Rush Limbaugh." Others noted the "political" nature of the arguments. When liberals are complaining about politics and the Supreme Court, this is a sure sign they might be losing the arguments. No better sign was needed than Vice-President Biden's knee-jerk reaction that he was "confident" Obamacare would be upheld.
The most telling arguments against Obamacare appeared to be about defining the limits of federal power and the possibility that upholding it would open the door to unlimited control over American life. If everyone will eventually enter the healthcare market and therefore citizens should be compelled to purchase insurance, in what other markets might the government compel purchases?
Justice Alito asked if burial insurance could now be required. It wouldn't end there. If the left took comfort from Justice Kennedy's admission that young people can distort the insurance market as a sign he might uphold the individual mandate, they shouldn't. Kennedy's greater concern is the "heavy burden of justification" for the government to prove the individual mandate is constitutional. Moreover, the justices know that Obamacare would reshape the individual's relationship with the federal government in ways that could unleash unspecified and unlimited federal power, against the "enumerated powers" of Article One. That abiding concern should be enough to overturn not only the individual mandate but the massive and unpopular bill itself.
This may not be the end of liberalism's march through American culture. But it may be the end of its using the Supreme Court as its greatest and most unaccountable tool. Liberalism has now officially overplayed its hand and it is likely to pay a heavy price in the days ahead. The worst possible scenario for the movement is emerging, namely that liberalism will be seen as exactly what it is, an extreme minority view in both American jurisprudence and in the culture at large, one worthy of widespread repudiation.
Jay Haug is a free-lance writer living in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. He is the author of the recently released book, Beyond the Flaming Sword, poems of Life from Eden to the Cross.