New Republic Writer Warns Left That Roberts Court, Obamacare Ruling Aside, ‘Is Still Plenty Conservative’

Posted on Fri 07/03/2015 by


Tom Johnson picture-58-1409692124By Tom Johnson ~

In the week since the Supreme Court upheld certain Obamacare subsidies, some on the left, applying the wisdom that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” have gratefully praised majority-opinion-writer John Roberts. But now liberals need to put their warm fuzzies for the chief justice behind them and guard against “complacency” regarding the court, advised The New Republic’s Brian Beutler in a Tuesday article.

Brian Beutler_0“Nothing inspires spasms of rage on the right quite like Obamacare, which explains why the conservatives feel as if Roberts has betrayed them on a Shakespearean scale,” wrote Beutler. Nonetheless, Roberts has established his right-wing bona fides on many other matters, including “affirmative action, voting rights, [and] campaign finance regulations,” and conservatives see the Roberts court as a “useful tool” in their effort to “litigate federal regulatory laws.”

From Beutler’s piece (bolding added):

So long as Roberts is the deciding vote, the Affordable Care Act—whose lineage is no mystery to conservatives—will not be damaged by litigation that seeks to undermine it. This is a huge relief to the law’s supporters, who correctly sense that the right’s appetite for frivolous Obamacare lawsuits is bottomless. But it shouldn’t be allowed to give rise to complacency. The Roberts Court is still plenty conservative, and has the potential to become more so in the years ahead.

If you look at the totality of Roberts’s career, and his decade as a Supreme Court justice, two trends emerge: Roberts is exceedingly business friendly (he described the issue at stake in King as “a question of deep economic and political significance”); and is deeply animated by a set of issues—limiting affirmative action, voting rights, campaign finance regulations, abortion—that by pure luck seems not to include universal health insurance.

The Roberts Court has already done lasting damage on several of these fronts. Nothing inspires spasms of rage on the right quite like Obamacare, which explains why the conservatives feel as if Roberts has betrayed them on a Shakespearean scale. But across a broader array of issues, Roberts has proved himself, The Atlantic’s James Fallows notes,  a “shrewd strategist…who knows how to pick his battles rather than getting mired in obstructive pandering to the base”…

…Conservatives are furious at Roberts, but at some level they still understand that his Court can be a useful tool. The ideological balance on the Court, and the simultaneous dysfunction of the political branches, has created a powerful incentive for conservatives to litigate federal regulatory laws, and accorded them a decent chance of success.

If that sounds alarming, it has the potential to get much, much worse. If a Republican wins the presidency in 2016, he will almost certainly appoint a sixth conservative to the Court, and perhaps a seventh. The firewall currently protecting Obamacare could easily fall…Obamacare’s legal antagonists will pressure Republican presidential candidates to promise to nominate the kinds of justices who think most of the 20th century was wrongly decided—think Clarence Thomases, rather than John Robertses. Add two of them to the Court, replacing two liberal justices, and they will have the power to do incredible damage.

Tom Johnson is a contributing writer for NewsBusters.

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