Third, this debate reveals that presidents and political parties should seek bipartisan support for major policy changes. Without Roberts’ vote we would not have seen the negative results of a major policy change supported by members of only one party in the Congress. All other major policy changes in American history, including those emanating from the administrations of Franklin Roosevelt through George W. Bush, came about with bipartisan votes in the Congress. As the old adage goes, “He who does not learn from history is condemned to repeat it.” President Obama and the Democratic Party have paid a high price for failing to learn this universal lesson from history.
Fourth, presidents must work closely with Congress in developing the details of their legislative proposals. President Obama followed a “fill-in-the-blank” approach, letting the Democratic leadership define the details of what became an unduly long and convoluted bill, which lacked coherence and cohesion. Simplicity, the hallmark of America’s major policy changes, stands in direct contrast to Obamacare. As former Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: “We have to pass the bill before we know what’s in it.”
Finally, Roberts’ vote magnifies the importance of one vote, especially when on that vote may hang the prestige and independence of the Supreme Court. His vote enabled the Court to speak authoritatively without injuring its stature.
Neither Republicans nor Democrats praise the Chief Justice now: Republicans because they have never forgiven him for failing to lock arms with fellow conservatives on the Supreme Court, and Democrats because they have a more important task, overcoming the Obamacare debacle. Regardless, history has begun to shine a favorable light on Chief Justice Roberts.
And so it is that Chief Justice John Roberts is the unsung hero of Obamacare.
A leading scholar in the intersection of faith and politics in the United States, Charles Dunn was named Dean of the Robertson School of Government in August 2004.
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