Niagara Gazette

Editorials

July 2, 2012

EDITORIAL: Remarkable restraint displayed in health care ruling

Niagara Gazette — The Supreme Court got it right Thursday when it upheld the Affordable Care Act and the five justice majority showed appropriate — and remarkable — judicial restraint in so doing.

Seemingly forever we have argued over the proper role the judiciary has in American governance. Conservatives have decried “judicial activism” — defined best we can tell as justices doing things conservatives don’t like. After Democrats held power for two years many conservative commentators (to say nothing of elected Republicans suddenly in the minority) began changing their tune, excoriating judges who failed to invalidate Democratic laws.

On Thursday, conservatives’ hypocrisy on the issue was permanently exposed by their howling that our freedom had been forever lost — because the judges failed to act.

Quite the contrary: Rarely has our democratic system been on finer display.

The role of the judiciary has been improperly framed in the political debate. Sometimes jurisprudence requires bold action and sometimes it requires mature deference to our elected lawmakers’ decisions. The good judges, whether conservative or liberal in inclination, know the difference.

When the high court in 1954 forced the integration of America’s Southern schools with Brown V the Board of Education it was a remarkable feat — and a brave moment of judicial activism in the face of an embarrassing absence of political will. The result? “Separate but equal” gave way to genuine equality as the Supreme Court forced upon us a societal change envisioned in the 14th Amendment, written a century prior to failed affect.

When it comes to health care, the justices — and Chief Justice John Roberts deserves special commendation here in breaking with the conservative bloc to maintain his court’s institutional integrity — rightly decided they had no place in the debate. Voters spoke clearly when they elected Democrats to the White House and majorities of a bicameral legislature in 2008. Their intentions were no secret; universal health care was a primary plank in the Democratic platform and a majority of voters endorsed it.

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