Obamacare, politics, and the modern Supreme Court.
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Does it not offer some hope for reviving our republic that The Hill reports “even the youngest voters oppose the law (47 percent to 42 percent among those aged 18-39)”? And who would have thought that “76 percent of those polled said they’d be paying more attention this week to the Supreme Court arguments than to the NCAA basketball tournament,” especially in a nation whose president so obviously does not share that same order of priorities?
It may be that the Supreme Court’s decision is political, but it will not be in the sense of the population decrying Republican judges overturning Democrat legislation. Instead, it will be in focusing the minds of voters on the importance of candidates who at least offer a pretense of respect to our Constitution — which should serve as a lesson and warning to politicians of both parties.
Voters are being reminded — in a way they haven’t been in recent American history — that rule books exist for a reason, and that ignoring them, or changing them mid-game, is a perilous path.
This reminder poses existential electoral risk to Democratic candidates in 2012, which is why the former chairman of Virginia’s Democratic Party is pleading, “Chief Justice Roberts, please put off [the] ObamaCare decision until 2013.” Arguing that a “bitter Supreme Court split” will harm the Court’s already falling public opinion and add fuel to an already red-hot political climate, Paul Goldman suggests that “The Supremes need to step back. There is no pressing need for a quick decision. Let Americans first ‘have it out’ in the presidential campaign. It is time to trust the people for a change.”
But nobody is buying the Democrats’ frenzied anticipatory spin. After all, even Mr. Goldman recognizes that “nearly all Republicans, many Democrats and independents are also opposed to the health care law.” He makes the amusing argument, summoning the ghost of Oliver Wendell Holmes, that should the Court uphold the mandate in the face of the public’s uniform opposition, it would “threaten respect for the law.” If a brain could be twisted into knots, Mr. Goldman’s would be of a most Gordian sort, with each rhetorical twist locking him further into living proof that Democrats recognize they are in a no-win situation.
And therefore Democrats scream “politics!” doing more to weaken the public’s approval of the nation’s highest court than anything the Court itself will do (at least this year). Democrats decry the unfairness of it, warn of people dying in the streets, and show ads of an ersatz Paul Ryan pushing grandma off a cliff, all in order to distract us from the fact that while Americans were losing millions of jobs, President Obama and his congressional henchmen spent the better part of two years jamming an unpopular, unconstitutional law down our throats while lecturing us that “we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it.”
To the extent that the Supreme Court is overly political, the blame is to be laid at the feet of the Democratic Party’s hero, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a man whose policies turned a bad recession into the Great Depression much as Obama’s policies have caused the weakest recovery from an economic downturn in the ensuing three generations.
When, in the mid-1930s, the Supreme Court struck down eight of his New Deal programs as unconstitutional, Roosevelt then suggested a “reform” plan, by which he meant to increase the number of justices from nine to as many as fifteen by adding a seat on the Court for every justice who was over 70 years old, had served for at least ten years, and refused the administration’s oh-so-gentle suggestion to retire. (Little discussed is that FDR’s ageist model was also meant to apply to lower federal courts.)
As author Barbara Ann Perry notes of Americans’ view of the Supreme Court in the mid-1930s, “when Americans did contemplate the Court, they often saw it inextricably bound with the Constitution as one and the same. To the extent that Americans developed reverence for the Constitution, they developed reverence for the Court.”
Thus, Roosevelt’s March 9, 1937 “fireside chat” (well worth five minutes of your time) in support of his court-packing plan was the first mass media-based overt politicization of the Court. It was a watershed moment in the beginning of a Democrat-supported crusade to damage public opinion of what had been considered the “least dangerous” branch of the federal government.
Roosevelt’s divisive words can be imagined coming from any of today’s Democratic Party leaders in the same situation, at least if they were a little more clever: “This plan will save our national constitution from hardening of the judicial arteries.” He went on to demonize the term “packing the court,” suggesting that his self-serving explanation should “end all honest misunderstanding of my purposes.” Whether in 1937 or 2012, disagreement with any liberal who claims good intentions must perforce be dishonest.
By trying — and essentially succeeding, even without the court-packing scheme — to force the Court to go along with the political will of the executive branch, FDR did permanent damage to the Court and the nation, arguably turning the Court into the most dangerous branch of our government.
However, even during those days of reverence for FDR, and an understandable “please do something, anything” attitude of Americans during the Great Depression, Americans sided with the Court rather than with Roosevelt — just as it will side with the Court rather than with Barack Obama in 2012 despite 75 years of Democrat assaults on the Court’s political independence.
Fascinating research by Ohio State University Professor of Political Science Gregory Caldeira into public opinion during the first half of 1937 shows that opposition to the proposed “reform” averaged 46 percent, versus average support of 39 percent, with the high watermark for support being right after FDR’s cynical fireside chat.
It was a remarkably narrow range of opinion for such a contentious issue, yet it nicely mirrors the Rasmussen polling results on Obamacare over the last two years: In roughly 100 polls taken over that time, the percentage of Americans who support repeal of the law has been between 51 percent and 60 percent all but four times. Of those four, one was slightly below that range and three were slightly above it.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?