The primary thing that defines a nation is its rule of law, and that was very much in question with the Supreme Court decision on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. After a long series of 5-4 decisions heavily weighted to the right, Roberts likely knew the very credibility of the Court was on the line when he ruled that the mandate was a tax, allowing the law to stand.
Even so, the decision merely gives the Courts reputation a temporary reprieve.
With such overtly political justices as Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, the Court is still perceived as unduly biased toward the way-out-on-the-right-wing fringe of politics. That perception began with the Courts 2000 decision on Bush v. Gore which gave the presidency to the candidate with the fewest votes. It has continued with a series of partisan decisions which have allowed elections to be sold to the highest bidder.
The conservatives on this partisan Court have shown a tendancy to argue cases out of both sides of their mouths to help their political causes, and theyve shown disdain for long-standing tradition.
To wit, Clarence Thomas, whose wife was being paid to fight against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, refused to recuse himself from the case. And, in a show of contempt for openness, he failed to list his wifes job and income on his financial disclosure.
Scalia, a close buddy of Richard The Dick Cheney, has made numerous political statements that are unseemly for a Supreme Court justice. One of the most bizzare was his assertion following the decision overturning most of Arizonas SB 1070, that the entire law should have been upheld, likening it to the time when Southern states could exclude free blacks from their borders.
Scalias tendancy to mix justice with politics led columnist E. J. Dionne to write an opinion in The Washington Post calling for Scalias resignation. Stating that Scalia cannot be a blatantly political actor and a justice at the same time, Dionne wrote, So often, Scalia has chosen to ignore the obligation of a Supreme Court justice to be, and appear to be, impartial. Hes turned judicial restraint into an oxymoronic phrase.
He went on to write, Scalia should free himself to pursue his true vocation. We can then use his resignation as an occasion for a searching debate over just how political this Supreme Court has become.
Justice Roberts deciding vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act would seem to have delayed that debate. But, with Scalia and Thomas on the Court, likely not for long.