WHEN conservative Chief Justice John Roberts threw in with his liberal colleagues, two things were upheld: President Obama's (officially titled) Affordable Care Act — and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Obamacare is as political as it is financial as it is medical, and it will be adjudicated in the media until Election Day. Republicans already have begun a furious attack against Obamacare, which is opposed, curiously, by a majority of Americans. Failed GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann solemnly told CNN, "We will never be the same again."
Pretty dramatic, and Obamacare supporters can be heard shouting, "Good! Millions of Americans will not be without necessary health care."
Obamacare is historic, a benefit, but not an "entitlement," because every above-poverty-level wage-earner will be compelled to buy health insurance. That is why anti-government conservatives hate it. They say that the federal government cannot order citizens to buy a product. But the federal government can order citizens to pay taxes. The court found the individual mandate to be, in effect, a tax.
I find that a little tough to swallow, but there it is. There is no further obstacle to Obamacare, which will be rolled out over the next two years.
Is it perfect? No. Is it open to some repair? Yes, the president said so. There are some unknowns out there that will have to be dealt with.
The second thing the court upheld — the Pledge — requires my explanation. The Pledge declares that the United States of America is "one nation, under God, indivisible…."
Indivisible. What does that mean?
It means white and black, brown and red, are one. Young and old. North and South. East and West. Republican and Democrat. Rich and poor. We are all one. If you want it in Latin, E pluribus unum. Sound familiar? Take out a coin and look at it. If we engrave it on our money, it shouldn't be a counterfeit sentiment.
It means we are a community, and in a community don't we take care of each other? Aren't we supposed to have each other's backs?
In putting its stamp of approval on Obama's legislative centerpiece, the high court endorsed the idea that we are "indivisible."
That may seem a little sappy, but you either believe in it or you don't. We are either indivisible or we are not. We either care for our neighbor or we don't. When we listen to our better angels, Americans have a tradition of generosity and caring.
In his brief remarks following the decision, Obama spoke plainly, simply and without equivocation.
In a rich nation like ours, he said, "no illness or accident should lead to any family's financial ruin," coverage will not be dropped because of pre-existing conditions and there will be no lifetime limits, among other things.
To be frank, I can't believe that Obamacare will expand the number of people covered, will prohibit anyone being denied coverage and simultaneously reduce costs. I think those who have more will have to pay more, and I am willing to do that because I am part of the American community.
In a way, the historic high-court decision may also have undermined the concept of American exceptionalism, because we have been the only developed nation without a health-care system for all its people. That was exceptional, but not really in a good way.
Obamacare is not "socialized medicine"; it is not a "takeover" of medical care or health insurance by the government. Those false scare terms are used by the right, and they felt the same about Social Security, which is probably the most popular government program ever devised.
In a decade or two or three, most Americans will feel the same about Obamacare. n