I watched the press conference yesterday with Sens. Reid, Dodd, Baucus and Harkin. All four men praised the health care compromise as a landmark achievement. Whatever. The blowback from the Howard Dean contingent on the far left illustrates how very little this bill actually changes in the eyes of neoliberals. When the extremists start making noise, I view that as a good thing.
Reid and Dodd have one goal -- pass a bill. This particular bill, in many liberals' opinions, isn't worth the paper it'll be written on. No matter; Reid and Dodd face daunting re-election bids in 2010; in my opinion, it will take a miracle for the enormously corruptible Dodd to make a comeback, while Reid's chances are 50/50 at best. These two men don't particularly care what the bill actually says -- they will take anything. They needed some sort of bill to wave around at their constituencies and trumpet as a success.
Harkin admonished progressives that although the bill wasn't as sweeping as they hoped, the Democrats were building a "starter home," not "a mansion." When Harkin said this, Baucus -- standing over his right shoulder -- noticeably grimaced. This was telling. Harkin is one of the Senate's most overtly liberal members and an unabashed advocate of a single-payer system. Baucus -- one of the Democratic caucus' most moderate members -- is perhaps the most powerful of an enormous contingent of reasonable Democratic senators like Kent Conrad and Mark Pryor -- his reaction to Harkin's comments was classic. He was having none of it.
I'd ask conservatives who are predicting the apocalypse to take a step back and look at the big picture. When the Democrats swept back into power in 2008, the GOP was as politically unpopular as it had ever been. Even with an enormous majority in the House and a filibuster-proof margin in the Senate, the more liberal party leadership had to make enormous concessions -- drop the public option, drop the employer mandate, refuse to extend Medicare eligibility -- to get many moderate Democrats to sign on.
The Democratic Party will never -- never, ever -- in my lifetime be as politically powerful as it is at this moment. It controls the White House; has a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate; and overwhelmingly controls the House. If it can't pass a sweeping health care bill now? This was liberals' chance, and it slipped through their fingers. And they lost their chance because the country deplores extremism. The country does not support a single payer system or even a public option. The ideas floated by the Democratic leadership and liberals generally are flat-out unpopular among most Americans. That's why even the rank-and-file -- Blue Dogs, Landrieu, Lieberman, Lincoln and especially Ben Nelson -- wouldn't support the asinine House bill. Too many Democrats realized they were signing away their political careers if they supported such a far left piece of garbage.
Finally, look at these numbers. You're telling me that the Democrats are going to be more popular as a result of the bill's passage? Please.