Kevin Drum has an absolutely terrific piece about health care reform out today. I highly recommend the whole thing, but especially the second half of it. He makes the point, which I think is correct, that health care reform wasn't hurt by poor messaging, and that most of the choices that hurt it were good, responsible choices.
This stuff is hard, folks.
Again, I recommend reading the whole post.
I do have two slight dissents. First of all, he's taking to talking about health care reform as dead, past tense. I think that's wrong. Health care reform supporters should not give up. Even if the administration has decided to jettison it (and the reporting I read doesn't make that clear, partially because the administration isn't ever going to say so even if they do make that decision), health care reform still needs only one vote in the House of Representatives to become law. I find it possible to believe that the Obama Administration would lean on Speaker Pelosi not to bring the Senate-passed bill to the floor, but they can't control that, and if she did so the White House would have no choice but to lobby in favor of passage (and obviously the president would sign the bill). I continue to believe that as Jonathan Chait predicted the House will come to realize that their political interest lies in passing a bill, and I think they will also eventually realize the point I've been making, which is that they stand an excellent chance of getting the patch through if they just go ahead and pass the Senate bill.
My second dissent is on the timeline. I still think that the Baucus Gang of Six strategy was a worthwhile tactic to provide cover for marginal Democrats. One can't prove these things one way or another, but it did turn out that the process netted the Democrats unanimity. Where I think they went wrong was after the Gang of Six ended; the Democrats knew that their supermajority was fragile, and in particular knew for some time the date of the Massachusetts special, and they chose to move fairly slowly anyway. As Drum notes, it appears that they were only two weeks away from passing the thing as it was; surely they could have saved two weeks between the end of August, when the Gang of Six process ended, and the beginning of January. Harry Reid and the White House deserve criticism for that delay, which was as far as I can see nothing but carelessness.
Otherwise, however, it's an excellent post. Must-read.