In our political system there is a fundamental divide between the two political philosophies. Liberalism versus conservatism has long been a battle of ideas and has ebbed and flowed in various forms throughout our nation’s history. Liberals advocate for Big Government whereas conservatives call on government to get out of their lives. Last week, President Obama said that government “made this country great.” I beg to differ, Mr. President. America was made great because of her citizens – not because of her government.
Government overstepping its boundaries was on full display last week at the United States Supreme Court where Obamacare was argued. By most accounts, President Obama’s Solicitor General, Donald Verrilli Jr., did a terrible job arguing the government’s case defending Obamacare, particularly the individual mandate. The individual mandate is the most egregious section of Obamacare, requiring every American citizen to buy healthcare on the presumption they will eventually need it and be in the market for it.
As Justice Antonin Scalia said during oral arguments, “Everybody has to buy food sooner or later. Therefore, everybody is in the market; therefore you can make people buy broccoli?” Justice Scalia’s comparison of healthcare to broccoli may seem trivial to some, but in truth he hit the government’s argument right on the head. It is unconstitutional for the government to order its citizens to buy anything, whether it is health insurance or broccoli.
Solicitor General, Donald Verrilli’s argument fell apart and those watching this historic case knew it. Jeffrey Toobin, a liberal commentator who writes for the New Yorker and appears on CNN, seemed shaken by Verrilli’s performance on Day 2, calling it a “train wreck” that put the law “in grave, grave danger.” It is not totally Verrilli’s fault because it is hard to defend the indefensible.
Hearing about the three days of Obamacare oral arguments reminded me of some of the great moments from our case, Citizens United v. FEC. The most dramatic exchange that stands out in my mind came when then-Deputy Solicitor General Malcom Stewart was forced to admit during the first round of oral arguments that the government had the power to ban books. I was sitting in the gallery and to see the justices’ faces was priceless. Undergrad political science students taking Con-Law know that it is unconstitutional for the government to ban books because of their First Amendment rights.
In the rearguing, then-Solicitor General and now-Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan attempted to argue that even though the government could potentially ban books, it never had, and so we must trust the government when it says it never will. I knew we had the case won at that point because Kagan’s argument just did not hold any water.
At the end of June we will hear the Supreme Court’s decision on Obamacare. I am very optimistic that the Supreme Court – like it did in Citizens United – will rule in favor of the Constitution, and a smaller government. President Obama’s philosophy is that Big Government is always right and just. It is now up to the Supreme Court to keep President Obama and Big Government in check.