“Just doing our job” – for once

The torrent of Obamacare emotion that cascaded northwards across the border last Thursday is an intriguing phenomenon for this Canadian observer. We embraced the benefits of universal health care long ago, and in a series of occasional articles on what is now cast as the crucial U.S. election issue for 2012, I will attempt to assist the citizens of the Great Republic in their better understanding of the Canadian medical health insurance system.

Contrary to the assertions of the ill-informed, wide-eyed rabble that give Tea Partyers their unassailable reputation for utter intellectual incoherence, Canada does not have socialized health care, Death Panels, or a modern-day medical Gestapo that pries tax money from the successful to pay for the care of the undeserving poor. We did not train the Al-Qaeda terrorists that perpetrated the 9/11 attacks, either. Our health care system is flawed and it needs a significant re-working, as my series will examine, but the socialist hordes are not poised along the 49th parallel, waiting. Rest easy, pilgrims.

It is the American public reaction to the Supreme Court judgment penned by Chief Justice Roberts that bemuses your obedient scribe. This state of mind is prompted largely because in Canada, our highest court is also undoubtedly politicized. Our judicial selection process, shall we say, is not entirely consistent with the principles of a truly enlightened liberal democracy – the government of the day fills vacancies, just like Uncle Sam – but we don’t trouble ourselves too much with hearings, Senate Committees, or seeking any particular insights into what just might turn the crank of a prospective jurist appointed to sit until age 75 whose philosophies will contribute to the ultimate legal course of the nation. We have always trusted our Supremes to fall in line with the unstated premise that judicial activism of any stripe is a touch unseemly, and not really Canadian. Funny thing – our trust is generally borne out.

My bemusement over the chattering classes’ reaction to the Supreme Court ruling is simple. Surprise at the ruling was a common theme from the battle hardened American left – our own Brooklyn Dame expressed this well in her initial take on the case. But…where is the magic in what Chief Justice Roberts crafted here? This is Constitutional Studies 101 – elected representatives make the law, and courts assess its constitutional fit. I believe passionately in the right of all women to control their bodies, and access to abortion must be theirs…and the so-called activist Supreme Court that decided Roe v Wade ought to have left such fundamental social policy to the acid test of democratic will – vote them out if you don’t like them. The U.S. legal landscape is littered with such examples – the 2009 Supreme Court decision in Heller v District of Columbia that blessed the right of persons to bear arms in public is frightening to anyone like me who concluded long ago that the American fixation with firearms is unhealthy. Heller is wrong for the same reasons as Roe – unelected and ultimately unaccountable national courts are profoundly ill-equipped to be the social conscience of any nation.

For these reasons I welcome what the Supreme Court did last Thursday – its job. The polarized Court actually did what its Chief promised on his appointment in 2006, to act as umpire, call the balls and strikes. Every ump has his own strike zone, but the imposition of a particular morality on the nation through the back door mechanisms of its highest court is surely undemocratic. There is abundant ammunition available to the sensible and the enlightened concerning why America must have universal health care, and why it will ultimately and entirely fail as a national enterprise if it does not. I explore these fundamentals in my next offering.