It’s inevitable that “liberal overreach” will be blamed for Democratic losses if they’re large tonight and also blamed if they’re small. But what I think overreach analysis always requires is more of a marginal approach.The ConservaDems extracted concession after concession from the President, leadership and caucus and still got their asses kicked. The party would have honestly been better off had it swung for the rafters; it would still have lost independents, but at least the enthusiasm gap wouldn't have been so crippling.
For example, granting ad arguendum that the 111th Congress engaged in liberal overreach, which Senators who win today would have lost had the Affordable Care Act included a public option linked to Medicare? The answer seems to me to be nobody. Which Senators who win today would have lost had the 111th Congress passed a cap-and-trade plan through reconciliation? Here, it looks like Patty Murray. Would a “scaled back” health care plan have saved Blance Lincoln? Clearly not.
Edit: It also comes back to that disengagement problem. One of Yglesias' commentators said that "people might think that Obama, Reid and Pelosi went too far with that 'socialized medicine'". And, yes, they might. But there was absolutely nothing that the Dems could have done about that. It was the most corporate-friendly, conservative-friendly health care reform bill you could ask for. The only reason it's called "socialist" is because it was labelled as such by the Republicans, BUT THEY WOULD HAVE CALLED IT THAT NO MATTER WHAT.
There was no point to reaching out to the conservatives and blue dogs. It didn't help, and was never going to help. Maybe good legislation would have. But I suppose we'll never know.
Re-Edit: And once again, the public doesn't give a damn about right v. left "linear" politics. They don't punish "moving to the left" any more than they punish "moving to the right". They vote based on their lives, beliefs and identity. So the attempt to "move the bill to the right" would never have moved them.