The Eight Stages of Conservative Grief: GOP Response to Obamacare Decision

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June 28 2012 6:31 PM

The Eight Stages of Conservative Grief

The fiery, petty, glum GOP responses to the Obamacare decision.

A Tea Party activist protests in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 28, 2012
A Tea Party activist protests in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 28, 2012

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Read the rest of Slate’s coverage on the Supreme Court upholding the Affordable Care Act.

Katy Waldman Katy Waldman

Katy Waldman is Slate’s words correspondent. 

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision upholding Obama’s Affordable Care Act led to rejoicing on the left and fiery, petty, and glum denunciations on the right. On Thursday, we saw conservatives pass through eight stages of grief. The first: denial. A representative example came courtesy of freshman Sen. Rand Paul, who said in a statement: “Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be ‘constitutional’ does not make it so. The whole thing remains unconstitutional.”*

Sarah Palin’s Facebook page opened a window onto the reverse psychology and delusional chest-thumping stage. “Thank you, SCOTUS. This Obamacare ruling fires up the troops as America’s eyes are opened! Thank God,” the former vice presidential candidate posted.

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The politically grief-stricken are also sometimes known to exhibit melodramatic rage. In a private House GOP meeting, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence outrageously compared the SCOTUS verdict to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, reports Politico. Also in the rage and melodrama category: Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli tweeted, “This is a dark day for the American people, the Constitution, and the rule of law. This is a dark day for American liberty.” And Ben Shapiro of Breitbart added: “This is the greatest destruction of individual liberty since Dred Scott. This is the end of America as we know it. No exaggeration.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia found himself in the anguished stream of metaphors stage. “Chief Justice Roberts once said that the Supreme Court’s job is to apply the law—‘to call balls and strikes, not to pitch or bat,’ ” the congressman opined in a statement. “He couldn’t have been more right in saying so, and he couldn’t have been more wrong by choosing to circumvent the Constitution this morning. Even worse, I fear that the High Court has opened Pandora’s box."

In Washington, self-promotion is a normal, inevitable part of the grieving process. “Stand with House Republicans and our fight for #FullRepeal #4jobs. Show your support by supporting my campaign: http://bit.ly/Qsmp39,” tweeted John Boehner this afternoon.

With his tweet—“With #Obamacare ruling, I feel like I just lost two great friends: America and Justice Roberts”—Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston invented a new stage: petulance.

Then there’s speculation and play. “Did Chief Justice Roberts vote the way he did because of bath salts?” joked the New York Daily News' Josh Greenman, taking pleasure in the conservative defeat.

And finally, resignation. “Swore I wouldn't do it, but I just gave Mitt Romney a donation,” tweeted Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of RedState.com. “Thanks John Roberts. Sigh.”

Correction, June 28, 2012: This piece originally misidentified Rand Paul as a member of the House of Representatives. He is a senator. (Return.)