June 28, 2012

Levin: Politics and the Supreme Court aren't Incompatible

Marc Comtois

NB: Probably the quickest notice of the Supreme Court ruling will be posted at the SCOTUS Blog. Hope their servers can handle it!

Writing about the anticipatory condemnations of the soon-to-come Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare, Yuval Levin makes an observation about what liberal commentators and politicians--who are expecting at least the individual mandate to be overturned--are saying about the so-called politicization of the Court (as if it's something new):

These people are actually saying that any outcome except the one they want must be driven by an outcome-oriented political crusade. Only their view could result from an actual engagement with the question before the Court, and any other view could only be a function of corruption or of cynicism. It must be nice to be so enlightened.

More interesting, however, is what such an argument implies about one’s view of politics....observers on the Left seek to draw a stark distinction between political and judicial thought, and it reveals their very low opinion of political ideas. They imply that there ought to be no connection between the most basic political divisions that define our public life—crudely encompassed in the Left/Right division—and ways of understanding the Constitution. This is a profound mistake, and a very telling one. As the Left often does, they underplay the substantive seriousness and significance of the Left/Right divide, presumably because they do not think of themselves as possessed of a particular worldview and believe they are merely objectively analyzing the obvious realities of the world around us....

...If we understand the contours of that debate, we can have some sense of where serious people on either side are likely to fall much of the time. After all, the liberals on the Supreme Court are at least as predictable (indeed more so, as is evident in the Obamacare speculation) as the conservatives. [The Left is] too. And that makes sense: They hold certain views for reasons that we and they can understand, and they seek to apply them thoughtfully to particular instances.

This debate is indeed a political debate, in the best and highest sense. But that does not make it a cynical debate, or an illegitimate one. On the contrary. The apparent inability of many left-wing commentators to see that point tells us more than all their diatribes in recent days. Their anger about the very possibility that the Court might disagree with them about Obamacare suggests that they do not believe that there can be such a thing as a serious political debate—they take serious and political to be opposites.

Read the whole thing because Levin also quotes from a previous piece he wrote tracing how today's "Left" and "Right" are actually two sides of a "liberal" coin, which is an interesting discussion all its own.

ADDENDUM: The points made by Levin are even stronger now that the SCOTUS ruled the way the Left wanted.