I knew that after all the sturm and drang over the past few months over the public option, the number one liberal priority in the health care debate, there would be a price for its success. The ruling elite could never allow an unambiguous liberal victory. It would endanger their narrative that says fealty to business, religion, military and other authoritarian structures is democratically inspired. They have to maintain the fiction that the people prefer to be subjects. If politicians aren't convinced that there will be a price for being liberals, they might get the idea that they can actually govern liberally...There are a lot of issues with how this has worked out, and a lot of issues with what other tradeoffs will happen going forward. The astonishingly terrible Senate Finance Committee bill still looms large, and the public option still looks like a fragile, wan victim of compromise. The House will almost certainly have to stand firm in favor of what it just passed, and it's doubtful that Dems will "stand firm" for much of anything.
...Any legislation such as health care reform must therefore be tempered by a liberal sacrifice, something real, a principle that will make them hate themselves and loathe each other for having done it. It cannot be a clean victory, lest they come to believe they can do more. In the end, the "moral" must always be that you cannot go too far left.
The Stupak amendment was designed to do just that, a power move easily predicted by anyone who has watched the way policy victories are managed over the last couple of decades. The one consistent characteristic is that they are never unambiguously positive for the left. The arguments are always self-servingly pragmatic --- "blue dogs have to vote their district" --- but the real purpose is to drive home the absolute certainty that liberals are never really in charge. That is why there is never any desire among the ruling elite to sell the idea that liberalism itself -- its philosophy, its values, its ideology --- is something positive with which a majority of people, including Blue Dogs, can identify. If the public ever came to believe that, who knows what might happen?
(Certainly the Obama Administration hasn't made a habit of it.)
This is a step forward. But a step forward can easily launch you into a pitfall. Don't relax.