Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Tumbling Down of the Supremes.

I remember in my naive younger years when I believed the Supreme Court existed on an exalted plane in American government. The Supremes made up the Third Branch of government but it was the branch that was beyond petty politics and partisan rancor. Back then, I truly thought they were profoundly serious about accepting their responsibility as the final word on interpreting our Constitution. I imagined them deliberating, discussing, even agonizing,  over the momentous issues that came before them. They were the Oracles on the Mount far above the common herd that made up the rest of us.

Then came Bush v. Gore and my illusions, or perhaps that should be delusions, about the Supreme Court were shattered. Like a prized diamond that turns out to be glass, they were exposed as being as every bit as nakedly partisan as Karl Rove or even, Rush Limbaugh, only couching their pronouncements in more elegant language.

Five to four decisions have become what we expect on the major issues that come before the Court in the 21st century. Four justices invariably side with the Republicans. Four justices invariably side with the Democrats. Poor Justice Kennedy lives in that limbo state between the two but more often, swinging with the Republicans on the most important decisions.

As in Bush v Gore....as in the United We Stand decision which declared corporations people and essentially, put our elections on the auction block to the highest bidder (as the Republicans wanted).

The Supremes barely even pretend to be neutral anymore. Justice Thomas sees nothing unseemly about his wife heading a Tea Party program that rails against The Affordable Care Act in the media. Justice Alito sees nothing off-putting about being taken to dinner by the opponents of Obamacare shortly before arguments on its constitutionality are to be heard.

So, what do we expect regarding the fate of Obamacare? Well, I'll tell you what I expect. I expect another split decision with the four conservative justices on the anti-constitutional side and four liberal justices on the pro-constitutional side and Justice Kennedy being the deciding voice. Maybe he'll flip a coin.

What is strange about this is that liberals like me pretty much hate individual mandates. We want a universal single-payer health care plan. The individual mandate was the Republican plan! We liberals saw Obama as caving to the other side in going with the individual mandate (although it is better than our current system, at least, not letting our insurance companies pitch us out for pre-existing conditions and allowing our grown children remain on our health care plan and mandating free contraceptives).

In a different universe, the Republicans would be arguing about the constitutionality of Obamacare (only it would be Romneycare or WhateverRepublicancare) and the Democrats would be on the other side. Is there any doubt, that if that were the case, the Supreme Court would also flip and vote just the opposite of what they will vote this time around?