The Politics of the Rule of Law

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Via Charlie’s twitter feed, I see that New York Times reporter John Harwood tweeted this comment: “is anyone upset by ACA enrollment extension except those who want fewer people to sign-up and exchanges to fail?”

Harwood’s point is clearly correct: Most of the people who are upset by the extension, and by other alterations in Obamacare unilaterally made by the administration, are opponents of the law who would prefer fewer people to sign up. Very few people who approve the law oppose these changes, if indeed any oppose them.

That’s another way of saying that the rule of law, though important, tends not to have a built-in constituency for it. When it has political potency it’s because it’s attached to a cause that already has significant backing.

The concerns people raise about the rule of law in particular instances may have merit, or not. If journalists dismiss those concerns when they are expressed in the context of a political dispute, though, they are likely never to take any such concerns seriously. A healthy political culture would follow a different practice.