To Scott Lemieux for (once again) shooting down liberal fantasies that the only thing preventing Congress from passing single-payer health care insurance in 2009-2010 was a failure of will from the president.
It's an excellent job, and sadly necessary, over and over again.
One key point that Lemieux doesn't mention this time: in one sense, this really isn't about 2009 at all. It's about 2007 and 2008, when the three leading Democratic presidential candidates converged on essentially the same plan (with Obama famously omitting the individual mandate). That says a lot. It says that none of those three candidates believed that adopting single-payer would have given them a serious edge in a closely contested nomination fight -- and that no other candidate was able to leap to the top tier by embracing single-payer. In other words, it tells us that in the world of 2007-2008, at least, the ACA was mainstream within the actual Democratic Party as it was, and single-payer was a fringe position in the actual Democratic Party as it was. Maybe lots and lots of Democrats preferred single-payer in some sense, but virtually none of them, either elites or electorates, did anything about it. And that's what counts.
What this also means is that ACA vs. single-payer had virtually nothing to do with Barack Obama himself. And so Obama-centric explanations for it are clearly, 100%, wrong.
I'd further argue, although here it's not quite as clear, that there was very little about the way that Obama fought for the ACA that had much to do with Obama himself. Yes, a Hillary Clinton WH would have looked a little different from the Obama WH...but not all that very different. Yes, presidents themselves do make key decisions, and not their staff or their party. But not only are they often severely constrained by their party (and by Congress, and by lots of other things), but they're also highly influenced by the incentives of the job, and those are the same whether we're talking Obama, Clinton, or George W. Bush.
In short, there's an excellent chance that both the good and bad outcomes on health care reform would have wound up more or less the same whether the winner of the 2008 Democratic nomination was Obama, or Hillary, or a hypothetically unscandaled John Edwards, or for that matter John Kerry or Al Gore.
Meanwhile: nice catch!