The reason tea partiers carried signs saying "Read the Constitution!" was that we were hoping people would read the Constitution.
Alas, we still have Rick Santorum saying Obamacare is the same as what he calls "Romneycare"; the otherwise brilliant Mickey Kaus sniffing that if states can mandate insurance purchases, then we're "not talking about some basic individual liberty to not purchase stuff" (no, just the nation's founding document, which protects "basic individual liberties" by putting constraints on Congress); and the former law professor, Barack Obama, alleging that a "good example" of judicial activism would be the Supreme Court (in his words, "a group of people") overturning "a duly constituted and passed law."
I don't know how a court could overturn a law that hasn't been "passed." Otherwise, it wouldn't be a law, it would be a bill. If it hasn't even been "constituted," it wouldn't be anything at all.
Of course the courts can overturn laws -- constituted and passed alike! If anything, the Supreme Court isn't striking down enough laws.
Suppose Congress passed a law (after constituting it) prohibiting the publication of books about Hillary Clinton. That would be a violation of the First Amendment and the courts should strike it down. Failing to strike down such a law would be judicial activism.
That's the judiciary's job, which has been pretty well established since the 1803 case, Marbury v. Madison, heretofore the second most sacred opinion in the liberal canon. (Roe v. Wade is the first most sacred.)
Marbury captured the imagination of liberals only relatively recently when they realized that, simply as a procedural matter, the courts have the last word.
The judicial branch isn't above the other two branches -- much less the states or the people. It is (one of my favorite words) "co-equal" to the other branches. Indeed, the judiciary was laughably described by Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist Papers as the "least dangerous" branch.
Anticipating nearly every form of government corruption, our framers specifically designed the Constitution to prevent tyranny. But they never imagined the perfidy of 20th-century liberals. (Probably because the framers didn't have NBC.)
What liberals figured out -- and were mendacious enough to exploit -- is that there is no obvious recourse for the other branches if the Supreme Court issues an insane ruling. So, beginning in the 1960s, liberals on the court started issuing insane rulings on a regular basis. Rather than referring to the Constitution, some of their opinions were apparently based on the dream journal of Andrea Dworkin.
Soon every law student could recite in his sleep Chief Justice John Marshall's line in Marbury: "It is emphatically the province and duty of the Judicial Department to say what the law is." So shut up and go home.
To take one example of a ludicrous ruling, at random, off the top of my head: In 1973, the Supreme Court announced that the Constitution mandates a right to abortion.
The Constitution says nothing about reproduction, contraception, fetuses, pregnancy, premenstrual syndrome, morning sickness -- much less abortion. (As the tea partiers say: Read the Constitution!)
It does, however, expressly grant to the states those powers not reserved to the people (such as the right to bear arms) or explicitly given to Congress (such as the right to regulate commerce with foreign nations, among the several states and with the Indian tribes).
Obviously, therefore, the Constitution implicitly entrusted abortion laws to the states.
One hint that a "constitutional" right to abortion is not based on anything in the Constitution is that during oral argument, as the lawyer arguing for this apocryphal right ticked off the constitutional provisions allegedly supporting it -- the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, the Ninth Amendment, "and a variety of others" -- the entire courtroom burst into laughter.
The ruling in Roe, incidentally, struck down the duly constituted and passed laws of all 50 states. (But that is soooo 53 million abortions ago ...)
When conservatives complain about "judicial activism," this is what they're talking about: Decisions not plausibly based on anything in the Constitution.
Curiously, the only court opinions liberals really get excited about are the ones having nothing to do with the Constitution: abortion, nude dancing, gay marriage, pornography, coddling criminals, etc., etc.
Liberals try to hide their treachery by pretending that what conservatives are really upset about is the Supreme Court striking down any law passed by any legislature. This is a preposterous lie that could fool only the irredeemably credulous.
Which brings us to the brilliant ex-law professor, who manifestly doesn't have the faintest understanding of the Constitution.
On Monday, President Obama shocked even his fellow liberals when he claimed that it would be "an unprecedented, extraordinary step" for the Supreme Court to overturn "a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress." (Which Obamacare wasn't.)
He added: "I'd just remind conservative commentators that for years what we've heard is the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint."
I guess now we know why Obama won't release his college and law school transcripts!
It was so embarrassing that Obama attempted a clarification on Tuesday, but only made things worse. He said: "We have not seen a court overturn a law that was passed by Congress on an economic issue, like health care," since the '30s.
Except in 1995. And then again in 2000. (Do we know for a fact that this guy went to Columbia and Harvard Law?)
In the former case, U.S. v. Lopez, the Supreme Court struck down the Gun-Free School Zone Act -- which was, by the way, a "duly constituted and passed law"! And then the court did it again in U.S. v. Morrison, when it overturned another "duly constituted and passed law," the Violence Against Women Act.
Both laws were defended by the Clinton administration as "economic" regulations, passed by Congress pursuant to the Commerce Clause with arguments as stretched as the ones used to defend Obamacare. The Gun-Free School Zone Act, for example, was said to address the economic hardship, health care costs, insurance costs and unwillingness to travel created by violent crime.
Conservatives want the rule of law, not silence from the judges. Not striking down an unconstitutional law is judicial activism every bit as much as invalidating a constitutional one.