Today the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a confusing and complicated though benevolently named piece of legislation. More derisively this Act is called Obamacare, and that’s probably the only thing you’ve ever heard pundits call it. We need not discuss the specifics of the Act or the ruling in this venue as you are no doubt soon to be inundated with plenty of opinions on the matter, though in truth those opinions, predictably, fall largely within the ideological framework of Democrats (for) and Republicans (against). As such, we have clear “winners” and “losers.” At least that’s how the “victory” is framed within most discussions.
Politics in America, and thus in our governance, are increasingly becoming a zero-sum game in which there can be ONLY political winners and losers. If Democrats win, Republicans lose, and vice versa. If you strongly identify with either ideology, then you generally consider yourself to be either a winner or a loser on any given issue. Much has already been written about the increase in partisanship in America. On virtually every issue, opinions are split along strict party lines. Not just split, but vehemently so. The opposition is viewed as a literal enemy, against whom all manner of slander and slur not only can be hurled but should be hurled. The social media site Twitter is ablaze with gloating about the victory, and some Tweets are critical, to put it mildly, of Justice Clarence Thomas siding with the dissenting minority. Much of it is not fit to print here, though you can find examples HERE and HERE (Warning: Colorful language). It seems likely that had the decision gone the other way, conservatives would have been just as void of class.
The stakes are high in this zero-sum game. A president has a partisan agenda because it will rally his voting base, and he needs legislative and judicial victories to keep that base energized so that he can win another term. Legislators, our representatives, base their reelections on supporting or defeating the president’s agenda. While these politicians ostensibly serve us, they really only serve the game they’re playing, and we all buy into it because we’ve become as partisan as they are, if not more so. In other words, “Our team must win; their team must lose.” Winning and losing are the most important things in politics; serving comes a distant second because if you win, even if it’s only on style points, you get reelected. If you don’t believe that, how many registered Republicans have ever voted for a Democrat and how many registered Democrats have ever voted for a Republican? It happens, but not often enough. We typically vote for Rs and Ds exclusively, though perhaps more ballot choice might help. We voters are little better than the District Courts that reliably lean conservative or liberal.
In the highly charged and venomous political atmosphere of winners and losers, Americans never win. We only lose.
Word of the Day: Mandate (verb): To order or require; make mandatory.
On This Day in History: The Spooner Act is passed, allowing President Theodore Roosevelt to gain from Colombia the right to the Panama Canal (1902). Franz Ferdinand is assassinated, which started a war that, despite its moniker, failed to end all wars (1914). The Interim Government of Iraq takes over rule of that country (2004).
“The Affordable Care Act's requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax. Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.” – Chief Justice John Roberts.
Stay tuned for more on non-mandated mandates via taxation.