Chris Bowers and Digby both comment on the failure of the Congressional progressives to exact demands on healthcare (and many other issues), as opposed to the conservative Democrats who really did drive the debate. Digby writes:
In the case of health care, as I wrote way back when, the congressional liberals were always going to be jammed at the end because the Medicaid expansion alone is something they desperately wanted for decades and couldn’t ever get (which doesn’t excuse why they negotiated with themselves the whole way along.) There was just no way that a progressive bloc strategy was ever going to hang tough with health care reform, although it was useful for them to work together to improve the bill and shape the negotiations with various threats and admonitions. (After all, there was no guarantee that it would end up with even the subsidies or Medicaid expansion at all.) Still, everyone knew from the beginning that as long as this bill covers many millions of the working poor they were not likely to vote against it in the end. Lifting up the poor is the holy grail for liberals.
I think Digby is right, but what has bothered me about this is that the one thing in healthcare–the only thing in healthcare–that was ever popular (and still is popular despite months of a one-sided political counteroffensive) was expanding Medicare to all (a strong public option). That this could not pass demonstrates a fundamental weakness of the U.S. political system to enact legislation that reflects the will of the majority. I also can’t comprehend how progressives and liberals were unable to use this popular support to mobilize the votes (unless the Congressional retirement plan was at play here). If Democrats had passed a bill with Medicare for all, they could have browbeaten Stupak and his allies back into line: for example, would Kaptur really have been able to oppose a popular bill because of her anti-abortion views? Probably not.
While reform of the Senate would be a big step forward, I’m not sure that will be enough. To me, the gap between what the public wanted (whether you thought it was a good idea or not) and what was passed suggests that there are multiple problems, not just with the current political parties, but also with how things are portrayed. And I’m not sure what we do to fix that.