How John Roberts Begat Donald Trump – The Federalist
(Mr. Sasshole note: I don’t think it’s nearly as simple and as linear a relationship as the article implies, but I do believe there is at least something substantial to his theory. Whether the ACA is Constitutional is a separate issue of whether or not you believe it’s a “good thing”. On the first question, there is zero and I mean motherfucking zero firm constitutional ground for the ACA to stand on).
Contempt for Rule of Law
Not because his ruling in NFIB v. Sebelius—and last year in King v. Burwell, when the die had already been cast—allowed a hugely unpopular piece of legislation to survive and corrode our health-care system and economy. But because Roberts recognized that the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional yet still saved it out of a misbegotten devotion to judicial restraint—under the guise of deferring to “the people.”
Sure, the chief justice cleverly wrote his opinion so it wouldn’t increase Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce and even cut it back under the Necessary and Proper Clause. He also ultimately upheld the individual mandate only by rewriting it into a “unicorn” tax—a creature of no known constitutional provenance that will never be seen again.
But by refusing to follow his own logic, to go where even Justice Kennedy full-throatedly went—I was in the courtroom to hear Kennedy passionately summarize a dissent that would’ve struck down the entire law—Roberts increased cynicism and anger at play-by-the-rules conservatives and decreased respect for institutions across the board.
The man’s twistifications drove the constitutionalist Tea Partiers into the arms of the populists—or made it easy for their populist instincts to “trump” their constitutional ones (pun unintended, but fitting). Why bother with the Constitution? Even when you’re right, you lose.
Indeed, if Kennedy had joined the liberals in their view that there are simply no structural limits on federal power, there would have been disappointment, but it would have been understandable given the conventional Left-Right rubric. But to lose in a wholly extra-legal way was a sucker punch, belying the idea that there’s a difference between law and politics and that the judiciary is an anti-majoritarian check on the excesses of the political branches.
Roberts essentially told would-be Trumpistas not to bother the courts with important issues, that if you want to beat Obama you have to get your own strongman—complete with pen, phone, and contempt for the Constitution. So they did, bypassing several flavors of constitutional conservative in favor of a populism that knows nothing but “winning.”