In March, when the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the health-care law that was today upheld, a leafy green vegetable unexpectedly found its way into the debate. Justice Antonin Scalia, arguing against the individual mandate, wondered where exactly the line would get drawn if the government could force people to buy health care. “Everybody has to buy food sooner or later,” Scalia said. “Therefore, you can make people buy broccoli.” The reductio ad absurdum line became a meme of sorts — and, it turns, out, had already been an example cited in conservative circles before Scalia used the example.
Now, thanks to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, it’s one step closer to true meme status, thanks to her memorable citation of Scalia’s argument. Broccoli was mentioned no fewer than twelve times in the ruling, not only in the dissent that Scalia helped co-author and in John Roberts’s opinion, but most memorably in Ginsburg’s. “As an example of the type of regulation he fears, THE CHIEF JUSTICE cites a Government mandate to purchase green vegetables. Ante, at 22–23,” she writes. “One could call this concern ‘the broccoli horrible.’” Perfect! How soon until someone Photoshops a picture of the Cookie Monster saying “BROCCOLI HORRIBLE” with a mouth full of crumbs on the steps of the Supreme Court?