As I read it, majorities of both houses do not want to pass this bill–otherwise, they wouldn’t have run for the exits so quick. They were looking for an excuse that they could deploy without risking retaliation from the leadership–and what the Massachusetts election showed, is that they don’t have all that much to fear from the leadership, because the leadership may not be there after November. Reid’s almost certain to lose his seat, and Pelosi may lose her majority in the house.
Seemingly small changes in power distribution make a big difference when they’re not targeted right. And power blocks in republics are NOT always a reflection of the will of the majority.
On a related note – a common theme in the blogosphere – both left and right – is chewing over whether President Obama overreached by making healthcare a priority. The leftists say no – Republicans would never have let it pass; the right say yes – the average American voter is satisfied with his healthcare plan and doesn’t want government intervention on this scale. My own thought is that it’s neither: Obama could’ve passed some kind of national healthcare plan resembling the one he wanted if he’d been more cautious and open about it. Start by recognizing that a national healthcare plan is a big step and that it will make the public nervous. Then give yourself a year to do real research into policies that have been adopted abroad and how they would likely translate to an American context. Then allow Congress to chew on it slowly. While this process is going on, make comments about it that are informed, rather than alarmist. That is, rather than just endlessly repeating the numbers we’ve all heard before about how many people your plan would insure, engage the opposition by admitting that they have a point about side-effects (because honestly, can anyone name even a single welfare state plan that didn’t sport some unintended side-effects?) and try to address their concerns. Also, just admit that there are going to be costs. Because there are going to be. If you can’t be honest about what everyone (reasonable) already knows, can you really be surprised when people don’t trust you? Above all, DON’T try to pass sea change legislation in your first year in office. Set a more reasonable timeline. I think if Obama had taken this approach, national healthcare would’ve been a slam dunk, and he would’ve even gotten points from historians for his thoughtfulness.