Political Animal


June 29, 2012 9:25 AM The Rationalizations

By Ed Kilgore

It’s human nature to try to find the silver lining in large adverse developments. But it’s been interesting to watch conservatives turn yesterday’s validation of the Affordable Care Act into a victory.

The most common “silver lining” rationales were that five Justices rejected the Commerce Clause rationale for ACA, which will provide the foundation for a judicial counter-revolution against Big Government somewhere down the road, and that the decision itself will galvanize “the base” and fuel a Republican landslide in November that will quickly settle Obama’s hash and lead to ACA’s repeal.

George Will most emphatically insisted on the “long run” constitutional “victory:”

The health care legislation’s expansion of the federal government’s purview has improved our civic health by rekindling interest in what this expansion threatens - the Framers’ design for limited government. Conservatives distraught about the survival of the individual mandate are missing the considerable consolation prize they won when the Supreme Court rejected a constitutional rationale for the mandate - Congress’ rationale - that was pregnant with rampant statism.

And Erick Erickson made the most succinct case for the idea that the decision would immediately produce a political victory for the Right, defending the Chief Justice by saying he “probably just handed Mitt Romney the White House.”

Had, of course, the Court gone the other way, that would have been a famous victory, too. But it’s a token of the Right’s current belief in its manifest destiny to govern—not at all typical of its historic attitude—that they aren’t spending nearly as much time rending garments over John Roberts’ apostasy as you might have expected, and are already focused on the next case—and the next election.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Robert on June 29, 2012 9:33 AM:

    Why does anyone give Erikson any kind of credibility? the guy is a tool without any kind of real thought process.

  • Ron Byers on June 29, 2012 9:44 AM:

    I am not at all sure many in the mainstream media haven't already bought the Republican frame. Democrats need to get out and sell the ACA.

  • Anonymous on June 29, 2012 9:45 AM:

    defending the Chief Justice by saying he “probably just handed Barack Obama the White House.”


  • Steve P on June 29, 2012 9:46 AM:

    George Will is like that kid in the car commercial; he keeps zapping issues with his Reality Distortion powers. When something--anything!--happens, he assumes credit for being right.
    A week or two ago he spoke of the steel spine of John Roberts. Don't expect to see that macro too soon.

  • stevio on June 29, 2012 9:52 AM:

    Really. You are talking about a party that lied us into a useless war slaughtering hundreds-of-thousands of innocent Iraqis, made human torture legal, and allowed the main perp in the 911 fiasco escape into Pakistan.

    You are talking about the same party that thinks it's a good idea to suppress voting rights, steal elections, allow corporations to manifest as individuals and own a 24/7/365 propaganda TV station.

    So, how can anyone (including clueless in Arizona Jan Bruster) be surprised that the biggest losers yesterday are claiming victory when they just got slapped up the side of their collective heads...


  • c u n d gulag on June 29, 2012 9:53 AM:

    I'm surprised they were able to get Will down so fast.

    At about 10:05am yesterday, his bowtie was spinning so fast, it took him into the landing and take-off corridor of Reagan International Airport.
    The government must have sent a rescue helicopter to save him, and prevent him from taking down a few planes filled with, now ex-pat Conservatives, all flying out with their money, to try to find some wealthy Western Nation without universal health care - of which there aren't any.

    Oh, and you never need to motivate the Conservative base.

    They're always in 'easily-affronted' mode, perpetually angry and cruel, and never have a scintilla of doubt that they, Homo Hate-icus, are in all ways superior to every other species on Earth, over whom God gave them dominion - says so in The Bible.

    Yesterday, they expected victory, and to be able to laugh and sneer at everyone.

    And now that they have tasted the bitter tears of defeat just when total victory was in their grasp, as their Bush-appointed CJ of the SC let them down, they'll take it out on Roberts, that RINO!, and anyone to the left of Antonin Scalia, which is pretty much everyone born to woman - with the exception of Thomas, Alito, and now Kennedy, who were hatched.

    Expect another "Summer of Hate," where Conservative politicians fire-up their base of blue and white haired feckin' idjits, almost all of whom are on either SSDI, Medicare, or Medicaid, and encourage them to bring with them racist anti-Obama signs, and "Keep Your Brown Nigrah Government Hands Off Health Care."

    I understand that Ted Nugent will open the concert portion of the festivities, followed by a Chuck Norris Marathon - and that Herman Cain will speak, to show that they're not at all racists.
    They just have that Nigrah, Obama!

  • Basilisc on June 29, 2012 9:53 AM:

    The only language conservatives understand is power. Everything is either a victory or potential victory, unless proven otherwise. So the only thing that will make them change their mind about their "core beliefs", including their belief that a majority of Americans agrees with them, is if they lose a series of elections, and badly - at which point we'll see those beliefs dropped like a stone. Let's work to make this happen.

  • c u n d gulag on June 29, 2012 9:54 AM:

    That last sentence should read:
    "They just hate that Nigrah, Obama!

    Edot pleeze!

  • PTate in MN on June 29, 2012 9:54 AM:

    "they aren't spending nearly as much time rending garments over John Roberts' apostasy as you might have expected..."

    I was hoping that the Right wing would do their crazy ballistic thing and cast Roberts out of the club so he would become a less reliable conservative vote, but no, alas, they are too clever for that. I suppose the upholding of Citizens United earlier in the week was sufficient balm.

    I agree with Ron Byers that Democrats need to get out and sell the ACA.

  • stormskies on June 29, 2012 9:57 AM:

    These Repiglicans are like little whining children whose candy has been taken away. It truly is a sight to behold. And, sadly, millions of our fellow citizens are exactly like the Louie Gomerts, Michelle Bachmans, and Rush Limbaughs of our country.

    And that, indeed, is the deepest tragedy of our country. Facts simply don't matter. Actual reality does not matter. Creating an inner reality defined by 100% fiction and delusions do matter to these whining children. They compulsively need yet another 'red siren' to create, like Drudge, to even function at all.

    Fucking a .......

  • berttheclock on June 29, 2012 9:58 AM:

    @cundgulag, well, as long as Chuckie wears his BSA Scout leader uniform showing his knobby knees.

  • Dwight Meredith on June 29, 2012 9:59 AM:

    Does the 5 vote majority accepting the activity/inactivity distinction make requiring private accounts for Social Security unconstitutional? After all, it would force every working American to deal with a bank/brokerage firm.

  • howard on June 29, 2012 10:00 AM:

    george will can say whatever he wants - it's a free country, at least until the right-wingers finish destroying it - but of course he's insane: the founders did not fetishize limited government. indeed, they realized that the articles of confederation were too limited and replaced them with the more extensive constitution.

    and they told us exactly why they did it in that little section that right-wingers like will really, really, really wish weren't there and which they prefer to ignore: the preamble, which states:

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

    nothing there about the importance of limited government, because the founders, in fact, knew better than will and the right wingers do.

  • bluestatedon on June 29, 2012 10:02 AM:

    If Will truly believes his twaddle that the ACA represents "rampant statism" that runs counter to the Framer's desire for "limited government," then he must logically oppose Social Security, Medicare, the FDA, EPA, OSHA, and the interstate highway system.

  • TrustUsNotThem on June 29, 2012 10:07 AM:

    "If Will truly believes his twaddle that the ACA represents "rampant statism" that runs counter to the Framer's desire for "limited government," then he must logically oppose Social Security, Medicare, the FDA, EPA, OSHA, and the interstate highway system."

    Err, ahh he does. Where have you been?

  • Skip on June 29, 2012 10:10 AM:

    Ditto, Ron. I am sitting here listening to two smokers whine about ACA, how no body THEY'VE talked to likes it (conservative propoganda has done its job very well), and how we're getting like Russia with government running our lives...not that either of these people have any idea about international political comparisons. They wouldn't even use the word Russia if it hadn't been spoon-fed them by some talking face.

    This is really distressing. These complaints seem a blend of consistently negative public information and an already-decided political bias. And let me guess, those responsible for implimentation of ACA will do what they can to undermine or corrupt it. Pathetic when Obama is just trying to better lives.

  • T2 on June 29, 2012 10:10 AM:

    Conservatives are "Just Sure" they are right. Call it arrogance, God's Will, or whatever....they are right and the majority of Americans are wrong. The fact they are in the minority only makes them madder at the rest of us for not being able to "see" what they see. Listening to a few "conservative" voices yesterday just going bonkers about "ruining the Constitution" and you come to realize how far out they really are. Way far.
    Summer of Hate, you betcha. All Hate, all the time. Now they got some Bitter to go with their Hate.

  • JoanneinDenver on June 29, 2012 10:14 AM:

    The right wing radio rage appears to be directed towards Roberts, not Obama nor the democrats. I think they will try and redirect their base towards the importance of capturing the White House and the Senate in order to try and control the Supreme Court. But, for right now, they really are enraged that the Supreme Court is not totally "theirs." As if they had every "right" to expect it to be so. That kind of arrogance is frightening.

    First Arizona, now AFCA,...."Curses, Foiled again!"

  • DAY on June 29, 2012 10:14 AM:

    We would not be having George Will's threat to "the Framers’ design for limited government," If the STATES ran things along the lines of my Keystone State, circa 1700, when Billy Penn was still drawing breath.

    It is only the total abdication of the state's responsibilities to ALL of its citizens that forces the federal government to step in.

  • Kathryn on June 29, 2012 10:27 AM:

    Stop the world, I want to get off! Yes, the President and the Democrats need to sell the act but good luck, the money bags will go all out with fresh distortions and mega hate. Even as I attempted to listen to Congresssional Democrats on CSpan yesterday, I could hear lunatic Bachmann screaming nearby, these people are nuts, almost possessed, irrational and determined to prevail, they won't give up for sure. At least a third of the country are true believers in the fun house distortion of facts that is Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Bachmann, Romney, Scalia and the rest.

    On the bright side, I observed two women hugging yesterday as I sat at a table registering voters at a Farmer's Market when the ruling came down. One lady's daughter had developed a serious illness and because of the ACA was on her parents health care policy. For now, she was safe and they were relieved and grateful. Why do extreme right wing Republicans hate their fellow Americans?

  • Anonymous on June 29, 2012 10:31 AM:

    I guess addressing, "promoting the general Welfare" (like helping to make us healthier) has now been redefined as only those with right-wingnut" tendencies and, of course, corporations, who, go out of their way to make all of our lives so much more meaningful...


  • Michael Robinson on June 29, 2012 10:38 AM:

    Reading through comment threads yesterday, it occurred to me that we're still fighting the Civil Wars.

    The Spanish Civil War, and the American with the present Republican Party forming an alliance of the winning side of the former and the losing side of the latter.

  • castanea on June 29, 2012 10:46 AM:

    One meme I've seen repeatedly from the right and far too often on the left is this: "Whatever happens, it is great news for Republicans and horrible news for Democrats."

    That is just one of the great obstacles that sane governace faces these days. Republicans themselves are unable to admit that they lose, that they make mistakes, and that perhaps they need to change their ways. It's as if the GOP is a cult of perfection and is unable to accept feedback and adjust its strategies for the good of the country.

    Unfortunately, the electorate thus far has been too dumb or constricted to slaughter the GOP at the voting booth.

  • T2 on June 29, 2012 10:56 AM:

    @anon.."I guess addressing, "promoting the general Welfare" (like helping to make us healthier) has now been redefined"
    The GOP sees it as "promoting Welfare" (like helping blacks and browns get their stuff for free by taxing the white folks). That's their definition. That's what they vilify.

  • Ed, Watertown MA on June 29, 2012 10:57 AM:

    To all the handwringing, all I can say is look to Massachusetts. We already have a working model of how this will play out.

    1). After initial griping, and a few longer doctor's waiting room delays as previously uninsured people hookup with their new Primary Care Physician, both patients and Doctors will become supporters.

    2). Less than 2% of people will decide that they would rather pay additional taxes than get covered by health insurance.

    3). Insurers will come up with a variety of different and innovative insurance plans that they will offer through the exchanges. Almost everyone will find something that they can afford that will allow them to get at least a minimum level of coverage and avoid being forced into bankruptcy by a medical emergency.

    4). After the first few years, savings will start to appear as people go to their Primary Care Physician for preventative care as opposed to going to Emergency rooms, forcing the taxpayers to pay for the most expensive type of medical care.

    5). Those of us working as Independent Contractors and Entrepeneurs will finally be able to find affordable coverage on the exchanges. People will no longer feel forced to stay at a job they hate just to keep health coverage. Now they can take a chance on starting new businesses without fear that they are putting their family at risk. New startups in Massachusetts are among the highest in the nation.

    6). I don't know if it will translate across the country, but Massachusetts since instituting "RomneyCare" has been growing faster than almost all other states. As of May, we are now down to 6% unemployment. Much better than the national average of 8.2%: http://lmi2.detma.org/Lmi/News_release_state.asp

    7). Paying for all this has increased the state budget by only 1% which has since been more than offset by the increased tax revenues from more employed workers.

    So my final word? Chill out and stop listening to the people with the dire predictions. They have an alternative agenda. They are not trying to do the right thing for America. They just want to win the next election no matter how much damage they do.

  • June on June 29, 2012 11:14 AM:

    @Ed, Watertown MA -- most excellent post! And I might add, when millions of Americans start getting their insurance rebate checks come this August, it's going to be that much more difficult for the GOP to argue that having extra cash in hand because of the ACA is "bad!, very bad!"

  • PTate in MN on June 29, 2012 11:15 AM:

    Evidently Sen. Rand Paul issued a statement that says: "Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be "constitutional" does not make it so. The whole thing remains unconstitutional..."

    Further evidence that the modern Republican party does not accept the rule of law by which the US is governed.

  • Will on June 29, 2012 11:19 AM:

    Yes, it's true: they really are "always winning". There are no losses. In some way, it's admirable (also delusional). At the very least, their pluck is something we could use more of on our side. We tend to wrap ourselves in defeat like a warm blanket.

  • Ed, Watertown MA on June 29, 2012 11:19 AM:

    @June - Thank you. It amazes me that media has done so little reporting on what's happened in Massachusetts. I guess it's more fun to speculate.

  • Richard Byard on June 29, 2012 11:50 AM:

    Many of bloggers and radio hosts on the right understand that part of their job is to rally the faithful and find a silver lining in defeat - so they proclaim Roberts actually handed them a victory because they can now campaign against the Obamacare "tax", or that this will rally those who had been unenthusiastic about Romney and it will be 2010 all over again.

    The comments on the rightwing websites tell another story. They see this as a betrayal by Roberts and they don't trust Romney to fully repeal Obamacare. These are the people who look at the "replace" part of "repeal and replace" as a trojan horse, just a way to put a RINO imprimatur on a similar plan. Already Romney's speeches have started dropping the "and replace" from his promises to repeal the ACA, a sign that he can't really move to the middle with anything but the vaguest of platitudes for fear of alienating a mistrustful base, that sees him only as an instrument to defeat Obama, but is almost resigned to betrayal should he win.

  • Ron Byers on June 29, 2012 12:01 PM:

    Ed, Watertown MA

    Why don't you submit your post to the editor of a major newspaper, maybe the Washington Post or the New York Times. This is the kind of story that isn't being told by the mainstream media, but it should be.

    I would love to turn it into one of those chain emails the conservatives use so effectively.

  • PTate in MN on June 29, 2012 12:06 PM:

    Michael Robinson: "Reading through comment threads yesterday, it occurred to me that we're still fighting the Civil Wars."

    I think it may go even deeper than that. Keep in mind that the right-wing in America represents a political operation funded by a handful of billionaires, their stooges and people who don't really know what they are talking about but are terrified that they may be forced to subsidize lazy and undeserving Outgroup members.

    This right-wing operation is fighting with Americans over issues that were fundamental to the rise of the nation-state after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648: 1) How do the wealthy elite fit into a centralized government? (These elite were once warlords who increased their power, wealth and territories through personal vendettas and judicious marriages, and now they are supposed to pay taxes to support the common welfare?) 2) Who is a citizen of the Nation-State and what are the privileges and duties of citizenship? 3) What is the role of religion in the state? (Back then, the trend was secularization, to separate state and religion, since warfare between Protestants and Catholics had been so destructive.)

    The Republicans have been campaigning on a pledge to shrink government for 50 years, and it is clear from their actions and ideology, that by "shrink" they mean eliminate, and that what they would like to eliminate is the nation-state known as the USA. Now who, one has to wonder, will benefit from that? Clearly, it is 1) an elite who believe they will be better off if they aren't subject to the rules of a nation-state, and who, 2) rejecting the obligations of citizenship, resist taxation, seek to limit the benefits of citizenship, and try to limit the pool of citizens; and 3) have allied with those who reject secularization, who want their particular religion to govern.

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