Who passed health-care reform?
Sam Stein's long look at the way the Obama campaign informed the Obama administration's approach to health-care reform is a very sharp piece of reporting, and worth a read. It suffers, I think, from the tendency to explain major legislative initiatives from the perspective of the president, which is an important perspective, but can diminish the roles played by congressional leadership and individual legislators.
In particular, the individual legislators tend to get left out of this story. But what was remarkable about health-care reform was how many Democrats wanted to vote for it. That basic desire to see the bill passed persisted through conservative pressure, grim polls, Scott Brown's election, painful compromises, and much more. And at the end of the day, even the holdouts seemed to want the bill passed: Conservatives like Ben Nelson and Bart Stupak and Mary Landrieu and many others were willing to cut the deal so they could vote for the bill. The bill wasn't exactly a political winner for any of them, but when it came down to it, they said "aye." Liberals like Anthony Weiner and Bernie Sanders were willing to accept a "compromise of a compromise of a compromise of a compromise."
The White House gets some credit for brokering those deals. Congressional leadership gets even more. But none of it would have been possible if elected Democrats didn't actually want to get health-care reform done. In that sense, the past 20 years of organizing and arguing worked. Health-care reform was so core to the identity of most Democrats that they stuck with the bill long after they would've let another priority die. If you want to see how it looks on the other side, check out climate change, where a lot of Democrats who are nominally in support of action on the issue seem totally disinterested in sticking their necks out on it, at least right now.
Photo credit: Marvin Joseph /The Washington Post.
May 13, 2010; 2:11 PM ET
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