A Wine Lover’s View of Healthcare and the Supreme Court
Tomorrow the United States Supreme Court will hand down the anxiously anticipated ruling on the Federal Affordable Healthcare law. And if, as many expect, the decision comes on a 5-4 vote of the justices down party lines, I greatly fear the consequences. Wine lovers possess a simply way of understanding the consequences of this kind of outcome I and they should fear.
More than simply dismantling a law that is already in partial effect or upholding a controversial piece of legislation, this kind of split decision down party lines has the potential to ruin the important faith Americans still have in the integrity of the U.S. Supreme Court and the impartiality that the nine justices are thought to possess.
This worries me because I am True Believer. I'm a True believer in the genius of the U.S. Constitution with its separation of powers and implied endorsement of Judicial Review. I'm a true believe that faith in our institutions of self rule and justice is one important source of American Exceptionalism and all the benefits that brings now and for the future. It is not unjustified to believe that with this kind of party-line, split decision on such an important issue will come a severe diminution in Americans' faith in the Court's ability to fairly determine the quality of the laws that govern us, in our ability to pursue real redress of grievances and, with this, in the legitimacy of our federal Constitution.
There is a fine way for wine lovers and the wine trade to imagine the kind of consequences I'm thinking about. Imagine a scandal infecting America's top wine critics and wine review publications. Imagine a scandal in which it is found that The Wine Spectator, The Wine Enthusiast, Wine & Spirits, The Wine Advocate and other standard bearers for wine criticism were found to judge wines based on simply whether they liked the style of wine, rather than evaluating the quality of the wine. Worse, imagine it was determined that they all judged wines based on whether they liked or disliked the winemaker who crafted wine. Worse yet, imagine a scandal that determined that a good review was based on the payment of some sort to the reviewer or publication.
No such scandal has operated at our institutions of wine criticism. But were such a scandal to emerge, it would result in a complete loss of faith in the entire process and philosophy of wine reviewing. It would upend a long, vital and important tradition of wine criticism.
What would result in response to such a scandal is a wholesale change in wine criticism in which the offended would only accept an "austere" form of wine reviewing focused merely on describing components of a wine, completely overtooking any form of critical judgement of the wine. Wine lovers would only trust "reviewers" that described tannin and alcohol levels and fruit components of a wine and offered nothing in the form of critical judgement of the wine. No wine is good. No wine is bad. Wine is. And nothing more.
This would be a disaster for those of us who know for a fact that consumers of wine, both highbrow and lowbrow, desire and demand that their wine critics make a judgement based on certain standards. Excessive brett is bad. Unnecessarily thin and diluted wine is bad. Wine caked with oak to the point that no fruit remains is bad. Red Burgundy that tastes like hot-weather, Australian Shiraz is bad. Balance among the primary components of dry wine is good. Wine characteristics that consistently portray the terroir is good. In other worlds, the lost faith and the resulting new way of understandng wine reviews would be a disaster for the notion that wine is and appropriate target for learned, critical review.
When the Supreme continually splits its decisions on a 5-4 vote based on party lines, we get the sense that the Constitution no longer communicates standards that its various framers over the years explicitly sought to infuse into the document and our body politic. We get the sense instead that basic Constitutional standards have been abandoned for the sake of simple politics and political allegiance. This results in pessimism, doubt, despair, and cynicism. Pessimism, doubt, despair and cynicism causes a retreat from participation, leaving the wheels of government and our own fates as citizens to those shrinking number of constituents who brought us the pessimism, doubt, despair and cynicism in the first place.
I personally possess political leanings in both civic affairs and wine. But no matter how the the Health Care law decision comes down tomorrow, my great hope is the justices' decision is unanimous.