Why the left is shocked – shocked! – at the beating Obamacare is taking

by Ryan Streeter on March 29, 2012. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

It may sound like a simplistic explanation, but I think Jay Cost’s take on why liberals seem so surprised by the beating Obamacare has taken is basically right:

The problem for the left is that they do not have a lot of interaction with conservatives, whose intellects are often disparaged, ideas are openly mocked, and intentions regularly questioned. Conservative ideas rarely make it onto the pages of most middle- and high-brow publications of news and opinion the left frequents. So, liberals regularly find themselves surprised when their ideas face pushback.

I think that is exactly what happened with Obamacare. The attitude of President Obama (a former con law lecturer at the University of Chicago, no less!), Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid was very much that they are doing big, important things to help the American people, why wouldn’t that be constitutional? No less an important Democratic leader as the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee cited the (nonexistent) “good and welfare clause” to justify the mandate.

Having no intellectual sympathy for the conservative criticism of this view, they rarely encountered it on the news programs they watch, the newspapers they read every day, or the journals they peruse over the weekends.

As a conservative who has lived mainly in deep blue neighborhoods most of his professional life, I can attest to the validity of Cost’s observation, at least in my anecdote-driven small corner of the universe. Just as the conservatives in my hometown in Indiana hardly know any true members of the left, my liberal neighbors (most of whom are highly educated and quite affluent) just don’t know many – if any – conservatives. Despite their elevated views of their own capacity for dispassionate engagement with big issues, they routinely seem satisfied with a highly caricatured view of conservatives. And given the predominance of their worldview in most media outside of talk radio, Fox, and the WSJ editorial pages, they typically avoid dealing with cogent cases that conservatives often make at odds with their own view of things.

Anyone with half a head above the water of daily life should have seen the Court’s grilling of Obamacare coming. The critique the justices offered was nothing new, really. Conservatives have been making this argument for over two years, well before Obamacare even became law. That the left seems surprised at just how unconstitutional the individual mandate appears to so many makes one question how much thought they really give to the big issues – or at least this one.