Thursday, June 28, 2012

Supremely Pleased

Yesterday, I got ready to write a post for today's Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, and I sat before my computer with quiet fingers.  My heart hoped that the Court, the last institution of the federal government to enjoy the confidence of a majority of Americans, would do the right thing.  For me, the right thing was recognition of the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.  There were two paths to that conclusion and both looked good to me.  The first path meant recognition that Congress had the power to mandate the purchase of healthcare because of the commerce clause.  The second entailed affirmation that the Congressional power to tax is clearly constitutional and that the mandate wasn't a mandate so much as a fine (or tax) on those who fail to purchase healthcare coverage.  Either way, we get a lot closer to healthcare for everyone in this nation and that is a desirable goal, even if the logistics to get there are mighty confounding.

And yet, Justice Roberts has invariably been such a disappointment to me that I had little hope he would side with Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor.  Though I have great respect for Justice Kennedy, the usual swing vote on the Court, I was convinced that his long-established preference for state's rights would be essential in this case and not good news for ACA.  I had no expectation that the triumvirate of Justices Scalia, Alito, and Thomas would be the least bit helpful.  These men would've sided with the Confederacy on questions of state's rights.  They weren't about to affirm the ACA on any grounds.  So I had to pin my hopes on Roberts and by golly, that was nerve-wracking.

I did a lot of re-reading yesterday, including a good deal of the oral arguments from the case.  I recalled Justice Ginsburg's cryptic statement a few weeks ago, when she said that the pundits had no idea what the Court planned to do.  I took hope from that.   But I went to bed last night still confused.  This morning, as we came down to the wire, I tweeted what my gut told me: the Court would rule ACA constitutional.   Then I waited with my fingers and toes crossed.  Seconds after the opinion came down, I gave my dad a call.  He was watching CNN screw it up, so I got to tell him that ACA was upheld.  And we were both emotional, which pretty much says it all.

I was raised by the kind of good, old-fashioned liberals who believe that they have an obligation to make the world a better place.  In his dotage retirement, my dad spends a good deal of time working at the local senior center helping the elderly poor to get access to decent healthcare and the prescription drugs they need.  That's an expensive prospect in this nation, even with Medicare, and helping little old ladies find a way to live on $800 a month has turned my dad into a radical.  He's not voting for himself when he casts a ballot, he's voting for the poor, the underprivileged, the folks who have been let down by society.  He wants universal healthcare (so do I) and he hopes that ACA gets us on that road. 

Voting outside your own narrow interests is an important thing; the very definition of a just citizen.  Today, Justice Roberts recognized that.  And I am supremely thankful.

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