There are plenty of times in politics that call for action; those times are, in some ways, easy for committed activists -- it's easy to see in October of an election year exactly what one should do to make a difference. More frustrating, and difficult, are times that call for patience. Last summer, Democrats were trying to use extended negotiations as a way of providing cover for marginal Democratic Senators (it worked -- that was one of the reasons they got all sixty in December). There really wasn't anything activists could do to make much of a difference at that point.
For advocates of health care reform, we appear to be, now, in a period that calls for both patience and action. I've been talking about patience all week, so I'll start there. Liberals need to be careful not reinforce the idea that Democrats will inevitably fold on health care; they need, as I've said, to avoid panic about panic. We do have some reporting -- see this item from Greg Sargent -- that indicates that House leadership and the White House may be essentially following the course predicted by Jonathan Chait and Neil Sinhababu. They both suggest that once the politicians recover from the shock, they'll realize that the obvious best course is to get health care done. So, for activists, the trick is to give them time to do that without immediately attacking the president and everyone in Congress for their weakness. All those attacks do is keep the downward spiral going. The same, really, with seeking and assigning blame for the Massachusetts debacle. So, patience about the ongoing process.
But...it's not just a time for patience. It's also a time for action, for liberals who support reform. It is absolutely critical that Congressional liberals realize that the thing to do to please liberal activists and to keep their reputation as good liberals intact is to pass the bill. Look at Raul Grijalva -- he needs to know that liberals want him to get a bill through. If he refuses, he's going to be looked at the way that liberals look at Ralph Nader in 2000, as the lowest of the low. This is a case where activists, I'm certain, can actually make a difference. Grijalva wants to be a progressive hero; activists need to tell him that the way to do that now is to cut the best deal possible in terms of assurances about a reconciliation patch, but then to accept victory and pass the Senate bill. And that's true down the line. If you support reform, this is the time to call one's Member of the House and tell him or her to get it done, to bring up and pass the Senate bill. If you have a liberal blog and support reform, put away the recriminations and the panic, and make it very clear that the House can salvage everything if they pass the Senate bill. There are lots of times where there isn't much the grass roots can do (grass roots liberals can't get Ben Nelson to act like a liberal, and have no leverage on Joe Lieberman at all). This, however, is a situation in which activism should be able to affect outcomes.
Patience and action. Yes, it's a tough week for liberals, but they should buck up and get it done.