There has a lot in “news” about Justice John Roberts alignment with the liberal side of the bench declaring the ACA constitutional. The Right has called him a traitor. The left is scratching their heads, but smiling. What was his thinking and what are the implications of Justice Roberts sudden conversion?
First, we progressives should be thankful. However, is this thankful as in ‘a beggar given a small bit of food’, or as in ‘Thanksgiving thanks’ for all that is good? We might also ponder what motivation and thinking is behind his decision to part with his usual company and accept his unpopularity within his own previous support group.
In the long run, this decision matters little to the monied interests who have taken control of the political Right. Those guys get their healthcare with VIP access and at a cost that does not even constitute pocket change. Healthcare access is about social justice, not financial power over democracy. I am fairly certain that most of the concern generated in this corner of the universe will be focused on financial implications and opportunities to exploit for financial gain to guide their next investment or hedge. They want to know who the winners and losers are so they can place their bets and be winners, regardless of which sectors win or lose. That is way their game is played. Consequently, I doubt they brought their full influence to bear. So it is not likely that this decision, despite all the rhetoric, is a big deal to them. It does, however, play into the storyline of Obama the Socialist, and for that they give thanks and raise money.
This decision was also certain to be one of the greatest legacies for the Roberts Court. One might ponder for a moment the historical notations attached to the Roberts Court if it had continued the regular issue of 5-4 decisions, appearing partisan in their outcomes, and culminating with this one. There has been an increasing perception of the SCOTUS as just another partisan piece of our broken system. After the Bush v. Gore and Citizens United decisions, a decision against the ACA would likely have cemented the perception of this court as partisan and no longer respected as an independent third branch of government.
Restoring credibility to the Roberts Court may not be very good for progressives. At some level the Court will gain additional credibility to the past and future decisions. From a court that brought us Bush v Gore and Citizen’s United, that is not good news.
I also think Justice Roberts must deal with his own ego. This is a very powerful man. Not only is he the Chief of the SCOTUS, he will likely remain so for a very long time. He is a young man with no possibility of being defeated in an election later down the line. That kind of power has to be an ego booster. I say this only to suggest that feeling that mojo may help him be more independent, and to act to save his name and that of the Court. I would be think that perhaps Justice Roberts will mark this decision as his time to take command of the court as a more independent voice, but I would not hold my breath.