An Election About Health Care Reform

That's Joe Klein's read of the election in Massachusetts:

At the end of his presidency, Bill Clinton told me that he should have enacted welfare reform before trying health care. He needed to establish credibility as a good manager--at that point, most middle class voters considered the welfare system a worthless scam (and it was, as subsequent events showed, in desperate need of reform). Obama probably needed to do something similar...and he will, belatedly, do so this year, pushing for stricter financial regulations and a tax on big banks to recoup the bailouts...

He chose instead to take on health care reform, a project of indisputable long-term value to the country. He has gotten farther than most experts considered possible. He has made embarrassing compromises in the process, but it's likely he couldn't have gotten to this point any other way. He has spent most of his political capital. And, if the Democrats lose the election in Massachusetts, Obama loses his veto-proof majority in the Senate ... and if he does, his gamble will, most likely, have failed.

The thing missing in this equation is that Obama did indeed tackle as best anyone could the economic crisis. But total opposition from the GOP and the usual foot-dragging by the Dems made health insurance reform a dominant issue and the sheer size of the problem allowed the nihilist right to promote the lie that this was all he was interested in.

But if there's one thing the nihilist right understands it is the power of a good lie. And if you lose your health insurance in the next few years, or you were hoping to be able to get some soon, or if you just lost your job and thereby insurance, or if your premiums continue to sky-rocket and your wages continue to languish because of health care costs, you know who to blame.

He tried. The system killed it.