I think I figured it (the liberal bafflement by Health Care) out.
I've been muddling along reading analyses of Health Care like Sonic Charmer's that fit perfectly my worldview.
I read a bunch of stuff at Volokh about why liberals don't really get it, with it being the fact that conservatives appear to be winning this debate. Then I read some stuff like Will Wilkinson that mildly challenges my worldview...And then I read Kn@ppster critiquing Wilkinson. And then the idea clicked.
I think that progressives/liberals had thought they'd won. We are on the right side of history, and the direction is settled. If the government wants to do something, it can. So says precedent since the New Deal. It's a settled issue. Sure, that overlooks a lot, but given Raich, and Kelo, and, hell, damn near everything since Wickard (Commerce Clause) and Miller (2nd Amendment). Since 1937, it has been the clear position of the court that in most cases not involving religion, the federal government can do whatever it wants. And my read says that (a) they are right, and (b) for most of the last 75 years, the supreme court has completely failed to act as a substantial check to congress.
The libertarian position is substantially different (can't speak for conservatives). We hold that the government has been slowly (and improperly) encroaching on the proper understanding of the constitution as a document whose primary purpose is to limit the power of government to screw it's citizenry. As such...we hold every new government action as in moderately clear violation of the purpose of the constitution, and in pretty clear violation of the letter of the law.
Heroic libertarian crusader Randy Barnett has nearly single-handedly (Richard Epstein? Alex Kozinski? Scalia?) transformed the debate into one that includes the original meaning of the constitution. When someone wrote "regulate" in the commerce clause...what did they mean? They meant "make regular"...prevent the states from imposing tariffs on other states' goods.
The liberals, thinking that 1937-2005 Supreme Court precedent was pretty clear on the topic, thought they could move on to other issues. The libertarians, thinking that 1937-2005 Supreme Court precedent was clearly wrong, and have been focusing on how to point out that it was wrong even in the face of stare decisis.
Heller, Citizens, and Obamacare are 3 modern cases where libertarian theory and the current court have come together to shake to it's foundations the liberal view of "what is settled". IF the liberals had been right: "the government wants to" is good enough, and that's settled precedent...then the Verrilli's argument was just fine. However, the court has been transformed in the past 10 years.
As usual, a lot of writing allows me to think.
Here's the question:
Is the stable state of precedent
(a) the modern one of near unlimited government power: 1937-2005?
(b) the historical one of highly constrained federal power: 1789-1937?
The Progressives thought the answer was settled as (a).
The Libertarians are pushing for (b). The conservatives are currently onboard with the radical libertarian attempt to do (b), but won't be for very long, as any real motion in that direction eviscerates government actions like the drug war as well.
I'm beginning to suspect that George Bush, biggest-government-proponent-ever (before Obama), was not bad from a libertarian point of view (Alito). And that Romney has a FAR FAR higher chance of appointing someone orignialist than does Obama. With 4 justices over 74...we are likely to lose one in the next 4 years.
Furthermore...I'm beginning to suspect that the libertarian strategy of infiltrating the academy (more academics appear to be libertarian than conservative) is working...we're getting the law to move in our direction.
Anyhow...I think that's the liberal position...and I don't think it's obviously wrong.