Monday, March 22, 2010

A Disaster That Didn't Happen

The Democrats celebrated an overtime victory in the health care Super Bowl in subdued fashion--no champagne corks popped in the Oval Office, no one dumped Gatorade on Nancy Pelosi--a suitable response to winning by not losing.

When the cry of "baby killer" at Bart Stupak had faded and the last vote was counted, the significance of a year-long struggle was that Republicans had failed to bring down the Obama Administration with a crushing defeat.

In our cut-your-losses age, this is no small matter, but passing a convoluted package of "reforms," most of which won't kick in for years, is hardly the equivalent of bringing Americans Social Security and Medicare, as Democratic leaders claim.

The bill, says a New York Times editorial, "represents a national commitment to reform the worst elements of the current system...Our hope and belief is that this reform will in the end accomplish its great objectives. Right now, the good news for all Americans is that despite all the politics and the obstructionism, the process has finally begun."

There is much to be said for "hope and belief," but as with the economic stimulus and jobs bill, this Obama accomplishment will be a long time in putting bread on American dinner tables.

That said, the President deserves credit for not wavering in the face of Tea Party rage and the Scott Brown surprise in taking over the seat of Ted Kennedy, whose widow praised the House victory in his memory.

But not losing is far from winning and, in the months ahead, Democrats will have to work hard to persuade dispirited voters that, despite total Republican obstructionism, something is better than nothing.

If they had lost yesterday, it would have been a political disaster.

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