I've spent the last three days outside of the Supreme Court building. While the circus outside is ultimately of little consequence compared to the debate inside of the courtroom, watching the protests was quite the educational experience for me. It showed me who's who in ObamaCare politics.
It was a colorful crowd, and in a way reminded me of a middle school cafeteria. I felt like the new kid at school, finding it difficult to find my place. I also got to do some soul-searching about the American system.
First, I saw ObamaCare's true colors. Pink. And Purple. And Orange.
In pink and purple T-shirts, with pink and purple signs, scores of pro-abortion forces rallied, mostly on Tuesday morning. Their signs said, "Protect Women's Health" and "Protect the Law." I'd later come to find out, via Facebook, that at least one of my college friends was among them. It saddens me that the debate over this law has divided the American public in such a deep and hurtful way. But it also saddens me that women's health is constantly reduced to an argument about the availability of birth control and abortions, instead of recognizing ObamaCare's effects on the health care system as a whole. The pink was Planned Parenthood. The purple was NARAL.
Across the street, union protesters marched. Many members of the SEIU donned orange gear. (I think they often wear purple too.) In true ObamaCare fashion, this group took top-down orders about what the next chant would be. They didn't chant, "Thank you for the waiver," although that would've been appropriate.
I've yet to discover the source of some blue signs that said "Protect the Law," but given their style/layout, my suspicion is they are from the Obama Campaign or "Organizing for America."
I even saw three men with a big beige banner that said, "Strike the mandate – Single Payer Now!" At least they are being honest about what they want.
But there were also people at the Court who wanted to see the entire law struck down for other reasons.
The most silent of any group were the pro-lifers, who put red tape over their mouths with the word "LIFE" written there. They just stood or knelt at the first step of the Court, praying, I suppose, that God would forgive America's abortions or stop the practice altogether. IWF doesn't take a position on abortion. Personally, I'm pro-life, but again, the focus on abortion is frankly a distraction from the broader problems in the health care law.
And there was one random kid with a green "I hate broccoli" sign that I thought was clever.
With yellow "Don't Tread on Me" flags, the Tea Party faithful showed up everyday. While they were often outnumbered or out-shouted, I've got a lot of respect for their focus on the Constitution and limiting government's role in health care. I think the Tea Partiers were mainly present as a response to the liberal protesters, to at least represent that many Americans are disgusted with the top-down, bureaucratic nature of Obama's health law. They secured a microphone and podium for some conservatives (including me and several conservative members of Congress, to make statements to the press about the unconstitutionality of the law).
But the whole time I was there, I felt out of place. Perhaps I felt so because I felt troubled about all the shouting at the Supreme Court. Personally, I'm a conflict-averse person, and I hate confrontations (even witnessing them!). But on principle, I don't like swarming the judicial branch. I know both sides have the First Amendment right to express themselves, and with the outfits and posters and chants, the press had a field day. But the Court's role is to determine whether or not the law is consistent with Constitution's limits on government power. The picture in my mind is of lawyers, judges and clerks, sitting down in quiet study to peruse centuries of Commerce Clause jurisprudence, and then writing and reading briefs and studying for oral arguments at the highest intellectual level.
I should be encouraged by all the protesting, and I am indeed filled with a deeper gratitude for our American system. That we have both democracy (expressed in the protests and public opinion) and liberty (protected by the Constitution) allows us to disagree with each other in very fundamental ways, and yet coexist.
But when the other side is shouting, "Hey hey Justice Kennedy, health care helps my family" – I can't help but think that they don't grasp the point.