Last week’s ruling by Chief Justice John Roberts that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional has thrown conservatives into consternation. Rick Santorum says he is “very disappointed … It was a folly of a mistake.” Conservative radio host Michael Savage suggests Roberts must be on mind-altering medication. Even those, like John Boehner, who said they respected his jurisprudence disagreed with his decision.
Roberts now finds himself in the same bad standing with conservatives as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. Bernanke’s credentials as the heir to Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan’s monetarist guru, have not been enough to save him from abuse either. When good conservatives like Roberts and Bernanke are traduced by their own side for being closet liberals, letting Barack Obama introduce European social democracy through the back door, something strange is afoot in the conservative universe.
The definition of a conservative used to be someone who values institutions above all as the bulwark against tyranny. That is the lesson left by the father of conservatism, Edmund Burke. But America’s most valued institutions, and those who operate them, are under attack from the very people who at one time would have been their stoutest defenders. People who like to call themselves conservatives, and set themselves up as arbiters of who is a true conservative, now despise the very institutions that safeguard our fragile freedoms from tyranny.
It’s hard to find a “conservative” today who has anything good to say about the Office of the President. The current head of state and chief executive, chosen fairly by the American people, suffers a daily barrage of personal attacks by those who question everything about him: his name, his nationality, his religion. His integrity is impugned as if he were a common criminal. Not long ago true conservatives would think such vicious attacks upon any president tantamount to treason.
The same people have little time for members of Congress, whom they accuse of venality and theft. Once it was the guiding principle of votes taken in either chamber that a simple majority was majority enough, a clear reflection of the wishes of the majority of Americans. No more. Now, to frustrate the operation of the federal government, votes in the Senate routinely need a two-thirds majority, and the system of representative democracy that has served the nation since the Founding Fathers is dismissed as “the tyranny of the majority.”