Dear Hillary: the debate over a law is never "over"

I was somewhat surprised to see Hillary Clinton show up on Face the Nation this morning, mostly because she tends to be somewhat camera shy these days. Still, she did sit down for an interview with host John Dickerson for a series of questions which weren’t exactly hard hitting but at least put her on record about a few things. After working through her usual shtick about how she clearly did nothing wrong in the handling of her emails, Dickerson asked her about her upcoming policy announcement on healthcare. Her answer, while offering nothing new of any substance, included an introductory statement which tells us a lot about the progressive front these days. (This was an on the fly transcript, so I apologize if a word or two is out of order.)

We need to recognize that the debate over the Affordable Care Act is over. It has been twice held as being constitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States we need to work on strengthening it, not repealing it.

This is similar in tone to a lot of other propaganda which has been making the rounds this summer. For several months MSNBC was running a promo featuring Rachel Maddow (I won’t torture you with the video here) where she talks about Obamacare being “the law of the land” and having received the imprimatur of SCOTUS. She goes on to declare it a done deal and “a victory.”

I understand that the Democrats and their media allies have somewhat uniformly adopted this particular talking point as part of the fight against repealing or significantly diminishing the ACA, and from a strictly political strategy perspective I can’t blame them. When you win one battle in the war it’s a good idea to try to build on that and shore up your position with the public. Of course, the truth underlying this position is that the entire premise is entirely false.

As this debate moves forward toward the next election I would hope that Republicans and conservatives take the opportunity to remind voters that our entire system of government is, to varying degrees, a flexible and constantly shifting beast. Obamacare is, beyond question, the law of the land as it stands today. It’s also true that a couple of aspects of it have been challenged through the proper rules of order and have survived the test all the way to the highest court. But absolutely none of that has magically transformed this piece of legislation into some sort of natural law, essential human right or sacred text brought down on stone tablets from Mount Sinai.

The law of the land is as permanent as the voters decide it should be. Its expiration date may never come or it may be swept way with the next meeting of the legislature. There is no debate over the law which ever truly ends as long as there are those left who wish to debate it. Even laws upheld in the courts have been regularly changed when the membership of the court turns over. As a reminder to Secretary Clinton, this truth extends beyond the laws which are passed at the local, state or federal level. We’ve gone so far as to embed a decision into the very Constitution of the United States, only to turn around a few years later and wipe it away. Our most fundamental rights are only valid as long as we keep them in place. There is absolutely nothing stopping the citizens from rising up tomorrow and beginning the process of wiping out the First Amendment with a new one which claims that speech, religion and the ability of the press to report on the government are dangerous quantities best regulated by the government in the interest of keeping the nation secure. (And the more people like Hillary we elect, the more that may become less of a fictional scenario.)

Hillary Clinton and her friends with cable news shows need to be reminded that the debate is never over. Simply saying that it is does nothing to change this.

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