In the fog of illness - I'm doing somewhat better, but nowhere near 100% - trying to keep up with current events is both challenging and surreal. I can't quite concentrate enough to follow all the details, and the whole things becomes a blur. There was a court case. Richard Holbrooke died. Bloomberg is speaking. Somehow this must all fit together.
The problem, partly, rests outside of me: the 24 hour news cycle has flattened information until everything is news and nothing is news, all at once - both "I already knew that" and "why did I need to know that" at once. So many things are happening... and yet, nothing, really, is going on at all.
Maybe that's why I found somehting in the juxtaposition Monday between the xecision of a federal judge in Virginia to invalidate the "insurance mandate" provision of Health Care "Reform" laid up against the "No Labels" meeting of prominent people who think we should stop sorting people into left and right so rigidly. The latter was neatly summed up, I think, when I said to my mom during coverage of the event "that seems kind of dumb" with her responding "it is, but that's not the point."
I don't remember what the point was - the convenience of a cold! - but I think if there's one place I'd like to apply "no labels" it's to the Judiciary. We've been wandering down this sad road of politicizing judges and judging for years (i tend to trace it back, as many do, to some of the uglier judicial fights of the Reagan years, especially Robert Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court), and we're really not better for it. And not just because of conservatives and the Right Wing, but also because many lefties - my mom included - have a kind of faith that progressive causes can ultimately be won through a judge's decision.
I've never been thrilled that Marriage Equality hinges, basically, on a court case, but at least that's the kind of advance that folows logically from previous law, a gay people's Loving vs. Virginia. And the thing is... I don't think that's the kind of decision that actually hinges on left versus right. When we look at ideas of equality and freedom enshrined in our constitutional law, I don't think "left" or "right" really matters. There are different ways to interpret the law, different approaches to the law... but ultimately, there is the agreement that we have laws, and a sense of how to organize a civil society. Why do we insist on needing to politicize even the ajudication of the law?
What's sad about Judge Hudson's decision is how it neatly falls into the easy left/right chasm that's coming to define litigation about the Affordable Care Act. A longtime Republican with close political ties to opponents of the reform bill, Hudson found - surprise! - that the insurance mandate was unconstitutional. Two other judges - Surprise! Appointed by Democrats! - found the oppsite. So now we can pretty mcuh expect all of this to wind up at the Suprem Court where - surprise! - we already assume that 4 judges (the ones appointed by Democrats) will approve of it and 4 judges (you guessed it) won't... and we all agree that Anthony Kennedy has the final say... because he's apparently one of those people who craves attention by being in the "middle."
I've said before, I tend to think the mandate, or something like it, is probably constitutional; health insurance is already part of the tax code (that's the Employer tax break that fuels our employment based system) and "proof of insurance or pay a penalty" doesn't strike me as a bridge too far. Ken Cucinelli's attempts to blow this into a major constitutional crisis seem illustrative of how he's not going to work out, mostly. But I can see the opposite side of, say, requiring everyone to provide proof a cable TV subscription, or pay a fee... how do you distinguish between a fee that's reasonable and a fee that's too far?
(Insert much longer argument about why the whole health care "reform" bill was a bad idea here, and follow it with observation that mandate, alone, is hardly the main issue of why this law is flawed, here.)
That, after all, is what the law is for: to figure out these kind of nuances, to figure out how and where the lines get drawn, and how to enforce those lines. I think it's fair to ask the questions; I think it's a necessary part of our civics to try and draw the lines. And still, I don't think this should be political, not the way it's become. The unfortunate thing about the "insurance mandate" case is not that it will be decided one way or another; it's that the decision, either way, will be seen as one side's political triumph, rather than a clear, legal resolution of a contentious issue that we can all find sensible and useful. We'll be worse off for that, however it gets resolved.