Balz Was Right about the Court, Roberts and the Campaign

September 26, 2012

A political pundit, I can’t remember which one, once revealed the secret to making predictions on television talk shows: Say the most outrageous non-laughable thing you can. To get invited back, you want to be as entertaining and bold as possible, without sounding stupid. And since no one ever keeps track of the predictions, it doesn’t matter if you’re wrong.

Fortunately, there are more sober observers of the political scene and they deserve credit when they’re unflashy and right. Dan Balz of the Washington Post, who is one of the smartest commentators on politics, is being proven right in his initial analysis of the impact of Chief Justice John Roberts’ decision in the health care case. Back in July, Balz wrote that Roberts’ careful splitting of the constitutional loaf – giving conservatives a limit on the Commerce Clause and liberals a win on the Affordable Care Act – “protected his institution” from the partisanship that seemed ready to engulf it. And, so far, the Supreme Court has been missing from the rancorous debate in the presidential campaign. Romney can hardly attack a Court, led by Roberts, that has produced a string of conservative, pro-business decisions. Obama, with his high profile victory, would look less than charitable if he angled his bully pulpit towards the marble columns on First Street.

The Court’s lower profile in the campaign is a good thing, for the institution and country. There is more than enough robust debate in America, but very few institutions of government that are spared from partisanship. While Bush v. Gore and Citizens United have left their scuff marks on the Court’s non-partisan ideal, it has been spared the far worse treatment it might have endured in the 2012 campaign. That’s a healthy outcome.

Check here for regular observations on the 2012 presidential campaign and political history, as well as new clips from The Bigger Hammer. Follow @TheBiggerHammer on Twitter to find out when new excerpts are released and where you’ll be able to see the whole film.

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