A Republican Riddle: Is Doubting the Supreme Court Unpatriotic?

A few splashes of cold water for all those crying over the health-care bill.

I’m sorry that Chris Stigall feels so mad and dispirited about last week’s historic Supreme Court ruling. But let’s remember how this discussion began in the first place.

Forget that Americans spend twice as much, $7,500 per person, on health care than any other nation. Forget that the U.S. ranks 50th worldwide in life expectancy, next to Portugal and Taiwan. Forget that we rank 29th worldwide in infant mortality rates, next to Poland and Slovakia. Forget that, despite these striking figures, Republicans relentlessly argued back in 2010, before “Obamacare” was passed, that the U.S. had the best health-care system in the world and that we’d be crazy to reform it.

Infant mortality rates! Boring. Let’s, instead, talk about the individual mandate. That evil, evil individual mandate. From where could such a terrible, senseless idea arise? Deep breath. The Heritage Foundation. Yes, a conservative think-tank. And who would ever adopt such a terrible principle in practice? Deeper breath. Mitt Romney. A few short years ago, just a long enough period of time for that Etch a Sketch to do its work, Romney had this to say in support of the individual mandate, which was a central element of his health-care plan for Massachusetts:

“We’re not going to solve [our health-care problem] until we get everybody inside the system, having insurance.”

Elsewhere, he insisted of the individual mandate: “The personal responsibility principle […] is essential for bringing health-care costs down for everyone.”

Then, unaware of the woes it would cause Romney down the line, the Fox News host, Paul Gigot, pressed him on the value of the Massachusetts plan as a model for the entire nation.

Romney said, “The overall principle really does have applicability, generally.”

But all right, so maybe Chris Stigall doesn’t love Romney or his flip-flopping ways on health care. Fine. Then, what about his concern that Obama only wants a political victory for himself—that he’s made it all about Barack Obama. Well, conservatives, not liberals, have made it all about Barack Obama. The Republicans coined “Obamacare” as a way to, once more, demagogue the debate. Mitch McConnell told Republicans, “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term”?

Also, if the American people are so unsupportive of President Obama’s health-care plan, how can Stigall, in the same line of logic, argue that the president’s only after political gain in pushing it?

On the subject of patriotism, when did it become patriotic to doubt the word of the Supreme Court, which is, I might add, a conservative-leaning court? Was Stigall infuriated when SCOTUS upheld a key component of the Arizona Immigration Bill last week? The constitution set up three branches of government. You can’t discount one.

It’s one thing to claim that Obamacare is bad policy. I’d even concede that Obamacare does hardly anything to control costs in the long term. But you can’t write a column on patriotism and trash the court at the same time.

As for Stigall’s affection for the Constitution, I’m with him. It’s brilliant. But why is it brilliant? Because it allows itself to be perfected. That’s right, it wasn’t always so good. Remember when it was a pro-slavery document? Eh, not so good. It’s been amended quite a few times—27, to be specific.

Stigall wants us to “stand tall once again” Just curious—what is the “once again” referring to? I’m assuming he doesn’t mean the Bush years, since conservatives seemed to swiftly ditch that name when it wasn’t going to help McCain’s bid for the White House. I’m assuming not the Clinton years, for obvious reasons. That leaves Nixon, Ford and Reagan. Republicans like to romanticize Reagan but he did raise taxes. If Stigall’s “once again” is before that, before the Democratic reign in the ’60s, well, we’d be going back to segregation and all that other “good stuff.”

Finally, let’s address the public opinion of the health-care bill. Stigall’s absolutely right: When asked about the bill as a whole, Americans are worried about it. Who wouldn’t be? Conservatives have done a great job of hijacking the discussion and filling it with all sorts of creative, hyperbolic language. Who isn’t scared of death panels?

In fact, though, when Americans are asked about the specifics of the bill—the parts that conservatives have yet to demagogue—they’re rather happy with what it has to offer: 85 percent favor the part of the bill that requires insurance companies to provide for those with pre-existing conditions. Nearly 70 percent like the idea that children can stay on their parents’ plans until they’re 26, and 77 percent support closing the doughnut hole—the part of Medicare that renders certain prescription drugs unaffordable.

So, Chris Stigall, I do appreciate your undeniable enthusiasm and passion on the eve of this Fourth of July. But let’s be honest about why we should be so proud: It’s not because we’ve always had it right; it’s because our ideals constantly push us toward getting it right. The Constitution doesn’t want us to revel at its genius, as if it’s some ancient relic; it demands that we use its language to be ever more fair and more just.

Now, that’s something to toast. Bottoms up.