Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Two Rogers too many

In 1857, a judge named Roger authored an opinion—the Dred Scot decision—that was supposed to strike a “death blow” to the anti-slavery movement, finding that blacks had “no rights that a white man was bound to respect.” In 2011, another judge named Roger struck what he believes is the death blow to health care reform, finding the law so intrinsically-tied to the requirement that people who choose not to have health insurance be obliged to pay a tax, that the entire law should be scrapped and “sent back to the clockmaker.” Both of these Rogers were clearly out-of-touch with the times, playing to a constituency whose motivation was fear and partisanship hatred rather than reality. The decision of the first Roger did not in fact destroy the anti-slavery movement in the North, but strengthened it; the decision of the second Roger mere proves that he is a right-wing extremist who delivered precisely what the Republican attorneys general expected he would delivery.

Neither Roger had any credibility as a dispassionate jurist; both had a preconceived political and social ideology dating from a time passed. Both displayed mindless zeal in trying to thwart their “enemies.” Neither understood that the problem of the case before them could not be solved by looking back. Neither understood that the effect of their decision would only exacerbate and enlarge the problem. The present Roger knows that his decision—if it becomes the opinion of the Supreme Court—will effectively kill health care reform, because after two year the Republicans still have no rational alternative plan of their own, and with a Republican majority in the House, no responsible plan that addresses the abuses of the current health care system can be expected come out of it.

Like the Dred Scot decision that galvanized the anti-slavery forces instead of killing them as intended, this latest Roger decision should galvanize the pro-health care reform forces by its very arrogance and conceit. It’s bad enough that right-wing jurists will accept the erosion of individual rights if it is in the name of “national security” or law enforcement, yet find citizen responsibility unacceptable if it is in the name of addressing serious economic and social evils.

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