Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi have been getting some bad press in recent months, especially from the Left, so now is the time to stop and reflect on just how skillfully they have all played their hand. They know their caucuses a good deal better than we commentators do. In retrospect, it is clear that there was never a real chance of passing a bill significantly more progressive than this. One ought not to be mesmerized by numbers. With the Republicans united in opposition to anything whatever, the Democrats essentially had to negotiate among themselves to find 216 yes votes, and to hold together the sixty in the Senate. That took patience, skill, and a very strong stomach. How many of us could keep our cool while trying to herd Bart Stupak and Dennis Kucinic into the corral?
By one of those ironies of politics that are sweet when you win and bitter when you lose, the Pro-Life forces actually benefited from the loss of the Massachusetts Senate seat. Because the Democrats no longer have the votes to stop a filibuster, they were forced to adopt the tactic of having the House pass the Senate bill [which lacks the Stupak amendment] and then adjust things through reconciliation. This in turn robbed the anti-abortion forces of a good deal of their leverage, and made it possible for Pelosi to garner enough anti-abortion Democratic votes to ensure victory in the two House votes. So we get health care reform without the truly devastating Stupak amendment.
No what we need to do is to strengthen the reform bit by bit, as has been done for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
As several commentators have pointed out, close, hard-fought victories strengthen, rather than weaken, a leader. Obama is now even stronger, for having persevered and won, than he would have been had his health care reform package passed without a fight. His success in gaining approval for his stimulus package did not noticeably increase his political clout, but this victory, I predict, will do just that. It is also worth noting that neither Reid nor Pelosi has yet failed to produce the votes when they were needed.
Meanwhile, the Socialists creamed Sarkozy's UMP in the regional elections, and Duke is in the Sweet Sixteen. You have to enjoy the good times when they come along.