Initially, given the GOP success . . . in framing the option as essential to health care, its putative failure and demagoguery seemed to be a significant blow to the White House. But -- and here is the key point -- it became something for the Blue Dogs to "oppose" and thus satisfy their constituents' concerns about reform in general. Sen. Max Baucus's health care plan has been derided by many liberal activists because it seems to be a compromise upon a compromise.
This is about right. Republican senators Charles Grassley of Iowa and Mike Enzi of Wyoming might be the only two people in the country who changed their minds as a result of the townhall eruptions. Obama stuck to his guns and progressives stuck to their guns. So did moderate Democrats from conservative districts in the South. If anything, teabagger rudeness and intimidation might have put some steel into the jelly-spines of moderates.
Ambinder didn't see a single Democrat in Congress changing their mind as a result of aggressive conservative tactics. I didn't see any either.
Actually, the political process has now been simplified. There are only four real players right now: Obama administration, the Democratic leadership, Democratic moderates like Max Baucus, and Maine Republican Olympia Snowe. The Democratic players will try to work out a compromise and they'll try to keep Snowe on board. But Snowe representing herself, her policy interests, and her Maine constituents. The Republican Party has rejected health reform so completely that they're not going to be a party to any negotiations.
And the legislation is going to pass one way or another. If the Democratic leadership can't get 60 votes, they'll pass a bill on budget reconciliation with 50 votes.
It's really that simple at this point.
Concerning the public option. Ambinder thinks it's dead, but I'm not so sure. Today it looks like the wind is blowing toward some sort of "trigger." But what happens when conservatives demagogue the "trigger" for the public option. Obama and the Democratic leadership might decide that they won't lose any more votes by keeping the public option than they would by compromising it away.
What's going to be the political fall-out of the health reform debate. In my thinking, health reform is one more item that's killing the Republican Party. Obama's popularity might be down but the Republicans have sunk much further. Republican strategists think they have an opportunity for big gains in 2010, but my impression is that the Republicans still don't have the candidates, message, or money needed to win hard-fought campaigns.
So, I wouldn't be surprised if the Republicans didn't lose a couple more Senate seats while only scoring minor gains by defeating a few Blue Dogs in the House.
In other words, Republicans are still on the path to being displaced as a major political party.