A Quick Thought on the Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act Decision and Politics in Pop Culture

A lot of the time, I write about the fact that it’s frustrating that, when pop culture tackles politics, it often reduces complex issues to matters of will and determination. I understand that these reductions are a means to of telling simplified stories, and that they feel good to tell. But it’s a convention that both reduces the actual drama of a story, and blurs the reality of our political system.

But as Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan joked on Twitter this morning in response to the Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act decision, “Roberts is the Severus Snape of the Supreme Court.” There are extremely rare moments where enormous political issues hinge on the will of single political actors. And while this is a mixed victory—the narrowing of the Commerce Clause may have wide-ranging consequences—this was, against popular expectation, one of those moments. Chief Justice John Roberts’ decision reaches into my life, and the lives of so many others, and truly made a difference. It’s a reminder that people who write television and movies aren’t wrong to believe that sometimes, the better angels of our nature can govern our nation. But that sometimes, they should save the speeches that turn the tide and the wrenching personal decisions for the good of the nation, recognizing them as the truly unusual things that they are, and understanding that they’re powerful precisely for being so rare.