So let the posturing begin. This morning the United States Supreme Court announced their ruling that allows most provisions of the healthcare reform act (I'll not dignify with use the pejorative term more commonly applied to it) to stand. Already, conservatives are declaring that the sky is certain to fall -- that life as we know it (or at least health care as we know it) is coming to an end and "ain't it awful." Liberals, meanwhile, certain that the Promised Land must be near, agree: health care as we know it is, indeed, coming to an end, and "ain't it wonderful." Something better, they trust, can now take its place. My guess is that neither has it quite right.
I'll stipulate that there are many details of the law that I have not taken the time to dissect and understand. There may well be onerous elements in it that will need some second thought. If Congress' track record on major policy initiatives on virtually any topic is any predictor, this one almost surely is not a perfect bill. That said, I lament that access to health care for all people finds itself such a controversial topic, and am mystified how it has come to be parsed as a liberal/conservative debate.
The Supreme Court ruling now in hand, perhaps conservatives might learn something from their liberal counterparts -- as distasteful as that may be. A little over 10 years ago, liberals were equally sure that the sky was falling when the draconian provisions of the "Patriot Act" were passed into law. How, they asked, did curtailed freedoms and government-intervention-on-steroids constitute "patriotism?" Liberals spit, blustered, fumed and decried this terrible inversion of everything American stands for, and predicted the worst. And in my humble opinion, there are indeed onerous -- even egregious -- dimensions to the law that have, in honoring them, made us slightly less "American." But has the sky fallen? No. And liberals have had to live with the muffled thud that took the place of the cacophonous explosion they expected. Conservatives, now the ones predicting certain calamity, will almost surely experience the same kind of disappointing disaster. Just it won't be as good as the liberals insist, neither will it be as bad as conservatives forewarn.
Meanwhile liberals might want to temper their champagne cork-popping celebrations. The ruling gives them a victory -- although only in the political alternative universe of parallel reality where anything that isn't an outright defeat is chalked up as a victory. The Supreme Court decision is, to say the least, a backhanded validation.
I am reminded of the decision, several years ago now, that allowed nativity scenes to remain in public spaces. Certain Christians rejoiced at the seeming victory. A more careful reading of the decision, however, revealed that the justices' rationale rested on the interpretation that nativity scenes had become a secular symbol in our culture rather than a religious one. That didn't seem to me like a decision I wanted to celebrate -- for all kinds of reasons. Today's decision on health care reverberates through me in a similar way. The Supreme Court said "yes," but for reasons that liberals will quite likely find repugnant. Instead of truly celebrating, they might find themselves merely holding their nose and moving forward.
For opposite reasons, conservatives might do well to do the same.
In the meantime, the law was passed in the first place as an effort to do something helpful and good. I know this is naive, but maybe we can now simply get together and hope that it actually does.