The only way to describe the conservative state of mind vis a vis modern liberalism is exasperation. It is just plain exasperating to observe the conduct of the American left in today’s political, economic and cultural landscapes. Nary a day goes by without some segment of the left issuing grave warnings to its special-interest, identity-obsessed base about all the looming threats to things the government has granted them. Yet again, we see an example of the devious ways the left obscures the concept of liberty: instead of things the government cannot do to you (negative liberty), today it is all about what can the government do for you (positive liberty). But then this is mere semantics to your average millennial, union worker, feminist, bureaucrat or little green fascist. The “coalition of the ascendant” has been thoroughly indoctrinated – by culture, academe, default human understanding – to believe that government is the altruist amid the morass of greedy, for-profit, one-percenters. Worse, they don’t really care one iota about philosophical treatises on governing, the market, or…anything, really. All that this coalition cares about is culture and the need to wrench it away from the kulaks and wreckers, er, conservatives and libertarians on which they project their hunger for centralized power and control (who, it bears mentioning, want the opposite of concentrated power and control).
The left is a pathetic joke in today’s America, which is why anyone not affiliated can only be exasperated as witness to their folly. From climate to taxes, guns to bureaucracy, welfare to Harry Reid, the left have created a perpetual motion machine of stupid and cynical policies and attitudes that serve only to grow the size and influence of both the Democratic Party and their fourth branch allies in the administrative state.
The latest bit of theater comes courtesy of two opposing rulings (Halbig v. Burwell) in circuit courts on the technical wording of the Affordable Care Act. See, in their infinite wisdom the Democrats wrote Obamacare in haste for political reasons in 2009 (Scott Brown’s surprise win for Dead Ted Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts sent Dems into panic mode) and, being the legal scholars and overall geniuses that they are, worded the language of the exchanges in such a way as to make void any Obamacare subsidies going out to customers in states with non-state exchanges, never in their wildest imaginations entertaining the possibility that a host of red states might not be thrilled about being coerced into setting up disruptive exchanges while also adding millions to their own medicaid roles. But that is exactly what happened, which opened a crucial window for libertarians like Michael Cannon of Cato to get to work on a lawsuit challenging the legality of federal exchanges allowed to offer subsidies, which the plain language of the law prohibits.
In spite of the Fourth Circuit’s ruling that nothing is amiss because we all know what Democrats “intended” and the further complication that the Halbig case will likely face an en banc DC Circuit hearing in front of the full 11 member panel (four of which are newly minted Democratic-appointed judges only at their posts thanks to Harry Reid’s use of the nuclear option to annul the filibuster of judicial nominees), this case is still going to the Supreme Court, where it is likely (fingers-crossed) we will win. After the en banc panel does as expected and overturns today’s DC Circuit ruling holding the law up as written (and by extension damning it) and tries to mount some lame legal rationale or precedent for doing so, SCOTUS is gonna issue cert and hear the case. And then it’s on.
But oh, the exasperation! How does one deal with the left when today they are actually arguing that the intention of Congress is what matters, not the plain letter of the law. The law only matters when it serves the left’s interests like, say, this 2008 Child Trafficking law we hear so much about that supposedly prohibits full stop the deportation of any of the minors currently languishing in holding pens and military barracks in Texas and Arizona. Democrats have proved that they don’t really care about the law in the Obama era, whether it’s the Executive branch writing and ignoring laws on a whim, the President ignoring a Senate pro-tem session and making recess appointments anyway (SCOTUS slapped him down 9-0 on that one), Harry Reid’s shameful and unprecedented stewardship of the Senate, or Nancy “we have to pass it to find out what’s in it!” Pelosi just being Nancy. That 2008 law by the way? They only cite it ad nauseum because they desperately want these kids to stay in country. Not for any empathetic reason, mind you. Just politics.
Even worse than the desperate attempts to make chicken salad out of it are the progressives who admit that this is a blow, but then confidently and arrogantly insist that it won’t matter because Harry Reid already took care of that with the nuclear option. Now they can just sit back and relax as the full panel of the DC Circuit overturns themselves and orders all Americans to kindly STFU and stop complaining about government. That’s how many of them are acting anyway, and it’s sort of hard to know if it’s a deflection tactic or if they are really so confident that the Supreme Court won’t find just four judges needed to certify an appeal that they’re truly not worried. But they should be worried. Not just about the fate of the ACA, but of their entire mission, to say nothing of their credibility. People are waking up to the awfulness of big government. As yet this feeling is nowhere near reaching critical mass, partly because dissatisfaction with government leads to all kinds of heterodox attitudes and prescriptions (see: Tea Party vs Occupy Wall St: similar grievances against cronyism; wildly different solutions), and partly because no leader or party has been able to crystallize for the public in digestible terms the urgent need to genuinely dismantle much of the federal bureaucracy, and explain why such a subtraction would actually serve as an addition; to the economy, the budget and the dynamism of the American people. Addition-by-subtraction applies to the welfare state as well. Though we wish to see it shrunk drastically, a case is there to be made that a smaller welfare state with fewer agencies and social workers aiming to “serve” you could actually lead to a more efficient dispersal of benefits. People need to be reminded of Reagan’s famous axiom about the nine most dangerous words in the English language: “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”
We’re a long way from turning this ship around. Hopefully Halbig is a small victory for the team standing athwart shouting stop.