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Obama and the Mother of All Tyrannies


Anyone who's had a casual conversation with his neighbors or is cognizant of reality TV should already be petrified of democracy.

But if the Supreme Court — or, as Barack Obama likes to refer to them, an "unelected group of people" — overturns Obamacare's individual mandate, the president says that the court would be taking "an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress."

To begin with, as usual, much of Obama's rhetoric isn't exactly accurate. A "strong" majority did not support Obamacare. (Parliamentary maneuvering in a Democratic Congress was needed to pass it.) It would be neither unprecedented (unless you count the way it was passed) nor extraordinary to overturn parts of a federal law. (The Supreme Court has done it many times.) And a court that restrains democracy is not an activist court as Obama implies, but typically one that's just doing its job.

But though most of the criticism of Obama has pointed out that the president has issued a "warning" or an "attack" on the judicial branch — and, let's be honest, all people do it when it suits them — it is his misguided case for democracy that should worry us most. Because, believe it or not, a small unelected group upholding individual liberty is a huge improvement over the opposite.

Alexander Hamilton argued that the court protects (or should protect) the deeper will of the people, because the Constitution represents our overarching values. Newly instituted laws, on the other hand, could often reflect fleeting emotions, lack of knowledge or flawed politicians.

Hamilton also claimed that federal courts would be the "least dangerous branch." In this he was surely wrong. Even if the individual mandate is struck down by the Supreme Court this summer (and it seems to me that there is some premature celebration on the right), you might want to remember this: The court is a single judge away from only occasionally caring about enumerated powers or ignoring them altogether.

Take a nugget from Justice Elena Kagan, who, as solicitor general of the United States, argued that banning books would be acceptable if those books were considered politicking by a government agency.

During the Obamacare arguments, she said that "the federal government is here saying, 'We are giving you a boatload of money.' There's no matching funds requirement; there are no extraneous conditions attached to it. It's just a boatload of federal money for you to take and spend on poor people's health care. It doesn't sound coercive to me, I have to tell you."

A boatload of government money is indeed a gift. Unless, I suppose, you're one of the saps paying for the cargo. But people like it! More than 50 percent maybe. Now, that's not to say taxation is unconstitutional, but it is to say this justice can't even comprehend how forcing even one individual to buy something might be problematic. And I can assure you that if Americans were asked to vote to get boatloads of money from government, democracy would quickly become a lot more expensive.

Democrats have fought hard to undo safeguards against direct democracy, attaching a morality to a process that can do both good and bad. They have created ballot measures to do away with the Electoral College. They'd like Washington, rather than localities, to dictate nearly everything. The mere mention of states' rights puts you in league with the Ku Klux Klan.

Why not? Democracy allows rhetoric, false empathy and emotion to pummel rational thinking — so it's no wonder so many politicians thrive in it. The Supreme Court, however, should rise above democracy, not give in to it. That's the point.

David Harsanyi is a columnist and senior reporter at Human Events. Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi. To find out more about David Harsanyi and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



6 Comments | Post Comment
When did 219 votes--in a solidly Democrat controlled House--become a "strong majority"? By my count, that's one vote over the minimum.

The inevitable complaints about conservative "hypocrisy" regarding judicial activism are amusing, as well. Judicial activism is when those "unelected judges" create new laws out of thin air (see Roe v. Wade, for example). Overturning unconstitutional laws isn't activism, it's their job.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Jeff Gunn
Wed Apr 4, 2012 2:47 AM
One hopes they do "rise above democracy" and consider all the ramifications and their conscience, when they reach their decision. As Mr. Gunn says, " Overturning unconstitutional laws isn't activism, it's their job".
I'm not convinced even the more vociferous out there truly favor Obamacare, in their arguments, what jumps out at me most clearly is that in this very wealthy, very enlightened country, affordable healthcare should be available for all. Obamacare is championed by many of us because, flawed as it may be, we cling to the idea of national health care insisting now is the time and knowing it is far more cost effective for all to be insured.
My story is, having a close family member with chronic health issues and no health insurance for a good part of his life, he was covered on his wife's insurance a few years before their marriage failed, Later, on a job which he couldn't continue due to the fumes and byproducts that aggravated his asthma causing missed work and hospital visits causing an eventual parting of the ways in a right to work state. He was "let go". Without the means to pay for the medications or medical devices and oxygen to keep his asthma and sleep apnea in check resulted in years and years of multiple hospital visits of minimum 10 days, then a medication induced type diabetes which worsened and caused him to be a "brittle diabetic" due in part to the steroids given to help him breath. As a single adult, he was not eligible for Medicaid and the city and county programs covered only children. We all pitched in, still impossible to keep up with the exorbitant costs of the many inhalers and medications and diabetes drugs and paraphanalia and X Rays and bloodwork and tests, doctor and hospital visits. Chronic unstable conditions affecting lungs and heart would bankrupt a millionaire when everything is out of pocket. Anyone can see what a cost savings it would be if he had been allowed affordable health care. He never had a chance for good credit with medical bills dogging him throughout his abbreviated adult life. He worked when he was healthy and didn't apply for disability saying he could work when he had his medications and disability means you can't work.
His only disability was no health insurance to cover the medicines and doctor visits he needed so he wouldn't be disabled.
Working also gave him purpose and dignity and when he wasn't ill, enjoyment and social camaradarie.It was one of the few ways he was able to live a life of poor health and sickness on his own terms. His last few years were reduced to emergency room visits every few months. Less than a month after turning 43 he died in the ER from acute respiratory distress. There is no solace knowing so many others are experiencing the same nightmare both here in America and in third world countries everywhere. There is only the hope, if not in the form of Obamacare, in some other form, here, now. We need national health insurance.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Steve
Wed Apr 4, 2012 1:49 PM
Re: Steve

"One hopes they do "rise above democracy" and consider all the ramifications and their conscience, when they reach their decision"

The only thing Supreme Court justices are supposed to consider is the law (including, in this instance, the Constitution). Whether or not they think Obamacare is a good idea isn't supposed to come into play at all.

Of course, the far-left wing of the Court would laugh at that notion. Ginsberg doesn't even like our Constitution, much less give it any thought when deciding cases.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Jeff Gunn
Mon Apr 9, 2012 2:40 AM
Mr. Gunn, with respect, perhaps Mr. Ginsberg is aware of Kurt Friedrich Gödel?

Courtesy of Wikipedia:
Kurt Friedrich Gödel was an Austrian logician, mathematician and philosopher. Later in his life he emigrated to the United States to escape the effects of World War II. One of the most significant logicians of all time, Gödel made an immense impact upon scientific and philosophical thinking in the 20th century, a time when many, such as Bertrand Russell, A. N. Whitehead and David Hilbert, were pioneering the use of logic and set theory to understand the foundations of mathematics.

On December 5, 1947, Einstein and Morgenstern accompanied Gödel to his U.S. citizenship exam, where they acted as witnesses. Gödel had confided in them that he had discovered an inconsistency in the U.S. Constitution, one that would allow the U.S. to become a dictatorship. Einstein and Morgenstern were concerned that their friend's unpredictable behavior might jeopardize his chances. Fortunately, the judge turned out to be Phillip Forman. Forman knew Einstein and had administered the oath at Einstein's own citizenship hearing. Everything went smoothly until Forman happened to ask Gödel if he thought a dictatorship like the Nazi regime could happen in the U.S. Gödel then started to explain his discovery to Forman. Forman understood what was going on, cut Gödel off, and moved the hearing on to other questions and a routine conclusion.

There is no doubt in my mind that this "inconsistency" has been used to its fullest advantage by those who would have this country as they would have it. Perhaps my most recent comments on Mr. Shields column on Gerald Ford will be of interest to you. I would be interested to find if you still support Conservative Judges with the argument that Liberal Judges are worse.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Steve
Mon Apr 9, 2012 9:34 AM
Re: Steve

Actually, Obama and his handlers have discovered just such an "inconsistency" in our system already, which is the fact that the judicial branch has no power to enforce its rulings against the other branches of government.

As a result, we now have a president who feels free to ignore the law, the courts, and even the Constitution itself if it suits him, because he has no fear of anyone stopping him. The only remedy left--impeachment--is impossible, because of the color of his skin.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Jeff Gunn
Tue Apr 10, 2012 9:29 PM
Re: Steve

By the way, when have I ever said that I support "conservative" judges because I think "liberal" ones are worse?

I support judges who understand that their job is to interpret and apply the law as it exists, not to make up new ones. We have people who are supposed to make new laws already. They're known as the legislative branch.

Judges, and particularly Supreme Court justices, who don't understand that concept have no business on the bench.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Jeff Gunn
Tue Apr 10, 2012 9:55 PM
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