Saturday, March 24, 2012

Who are We Kidding?

Charles Krauthammer's Friday piece, "The Reckoning", about the future of Obamacare, has a line in it that bears repeating.  Krauthammer knows this because I heard him repeat it on FOX News just last night:
Beginning March 26, the Supreme Court will hear challenges to the law. The American people, by an astonishing two-thirds majority, want the law and/or the individual mandate tossed out by the Court. In practice, however, questions this momentous are generally decided 5 to 4, i.e., they depend on whatever side of the bed Justice Anthony Kennedy gets out of that morning.
Stop and think for just a minute, please:  In a nation of 300 million people, an issue so controversial mainly because the stakes include a fundamental alteration of the relationship between the citizen and the state will be decided ultimately by the caprice of one Supreme Court justice. 

Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?

It does because it is.  Which is precisely is Krauthammer's point and through it he reveals an important limitation to our constitutional system:  The particulars of an issue are unimportant save that it be controversial, and extremely so.  The stakes must be believed to be very high indeed.  When they are, no Supreme Court decision, not even a 9-0 ruling, is likely to be accepted as legitimate, i.e., to be taken seriously, much less settle the underlying conflict.

Do not misunderstand, the "victorious" side will no doubt take great solace in a sympathetic verdict.  But ultimately, and this time ultimately is appropriate, the issue must be resolved politically, that is, by the people through their elected representatives.      

Obamacare is just such an issue.

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