A place in history for John Roberts
Anthony A. Kila
There is no other way to put it Chief Justice John Roberts of the supreme court of the USA has earned himself an important place in the history of law and politics. Regardless of whether they are within or beyond the borders of the USA, regardless of whether they think Barack Obama’s healthcare plan is important or not, right or wrong, observers and political analysts cannot but agree that the name and opinions of John Roberts will now be cited and studied for centuries to come in our classrooms and strategy sessions. Some bold ones amongst us have dared to predict the number of possible John Roberts related thesis that will come up in the next ten years.
For those who missed it, Chief Justice John Roberts gained his new status overnight and above others by voting unexpectedly and in a unique way in favour of upholding President Barack Obama’s innovative but controversial healthcare plan. The legal term for the plan is the Affordable Healthcare Act but commentators, politicians and indeed many in the public have dubbed it the Obamacare. Such appellation is quite understandable; this American President has placed much of his own legacy on his health plan and it is a goal that Democratic presidents had unsuccessfully pursued for 75 years. In fairness to Obama, he promised to introduce the plan during his campaign for office so whilst the plan is yes innovative for Americans, the surprise would have been if Obama did not actualise or at least try do so once in office. Elected office holders in other parts of the world could learn some lessons from that about saying what they will do and doing what they said.
Notwithstanding, his declared intention many (a majority as a matter of fact) of the voters turned out to be against the President’s health care once he laid out and wanted to start executing it. After lots of back and forth with the Congress, the President got a law that will put into being the formation of a nationwide insurance system that would drastically reduce the number of Americans without coverage. With this law, the President hopes to extend insurance to over 30 million people. A key part of this plan and perhaps the most unpopular is the so-called Individual mandate that requires all Americans to buy insurance or pay a fine for not doing so.
It will be recalled that in March 2010 many took to the streets to protest against the President’s enunciated health plans. The words they used were quite harsh and in many instances offensive to the President and his administration. As one might expect the opposition joined, championed and even exacerbated this public discontent. Yet they were warned during the campaign and they knew this administration was going to put forward its health plan, imagine what would have happened if the President did not mention it during his campaign and just woke up one morning to announce it. Elected leaders elsewhere in the world and those Americans as well as other westerners from democratic countries that advice foreign world leaders might want to notice here that in the USA those rude, angry, irreverent and politically motivated protesters were neither impeded through bureaucracy nor restrained through violent brute force. It could be argued that they knew this administration was going to put forward its health plan, and that the due process was followed since Congress had passed the bill, yet none in the administration belittled the right of citizens to protest. All the administration did was put forward its own case, they put it forward in a way that I personally think was clumsy and generally insufficient.
Those against the health care plan found a way to institutionally express their protests through Florida and twenty-five other states that went to court to argue that the law was unconstitutional because individuals cannot be forced have an insurance as this a “product” they may neither nor need. They argued and hoped that if the individual mandate provision is unconstitutional the entire law must go. The legal battle against Obama’s health plan unavoidably became a partisan fight and many expected conservative Judges of the Supreme Court to vote against it like the conservative parliamentarians did in congress. The hopes of those for the plan were pinned on the independent Judge, but Justice John Roberts a clearly conservative Judge, nominated by Bush and opposed by Obama, surprised all by voting to uphold the plan. It must be said here that the uniqueness of Roberts’s voting is not merely in his vote. He is neither a conservative that concedes to progressives, nor a unionist that bends to the vision of the government. He is clearly not in favour of the plan. His path to a place in history lies in his motivation and his ability to express it with finesse and in coherence with his principles and loyalty to the constitution he swore to defend. He wants people not the court to decide governance. With his voting he also helped reinforce the credibility of his court. Some pundits and activists such as Sarah Palin, Donald Trump and Rush Limbaugh have failed to see this and are calling him names. They are however just shallow minded opportunists with little or no chance of making history for their intellects.