Conservatives are apoplectic that John Roberts, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, sided with the liberal wing of the court in largely upholding the constitutionality of The Affordable Care Act (ACA). Their rhetoric has been filled with invective and they have described Roberts as “a traitor to his philosophy” who is “forever stained in the eyes of Conservatives.” His opinion has been called “the worst kind of judicial activism” and characterized as “a 21st century Dred Scott decision.”
You get the picture. In joining the majority in upholding Obamacare, Roberts has become the Benedict Arnold of the Bench.
To my friends on the right, I say, “Enough with the hyperbole. Take a breath. Chill out! Roberts is not guilty of the perfidy of which you accuse him and he has given us a great gift for the coming election.”
And before we go further, let’s make one thing clear. In ascending to the Supreme Court, John Roberts did not take an oath to advance the cause of conservatism or the agenda of the Republican Party. He did not agree to become a judicial activist for the Right. He took an oath to uphold the Constitution. The role of the Court is to interpret the Constitution, and in the Obamacare decision, he has made a good faith, well reasoned, carefully considered attempt to do just that. The fact that we may not agree with the outcome he reached does not make him a traitor or some kind of a two-horned, one-eyed judicial activist. Surely there is room for honest disagreement within conservative ranks. And is charity not one of the virtues we extol?
Conservatives should take heart from Justice Roberts’ explication of Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. That clause has provided the pretext for an incredible expansion of the federal government into the lives of its citizens. Roberts, however, dismantled the government’s argument that the ACA represented an appropriate exercise of power under the Commerce Clause and its kissing cousin, the Necessary and Proper Clause, which gives Congress the authority to do those things necessary and proper for carrying out its enumerated powers.