The flip side of Obama's perhaps naive belief that he can win Republicans over is his ability to show them up. Americans are confused about the plan, but they are not confused about the man. By large margins they trust Obama more than they do the Republicans to produce rational solutions to the country's problems. In the past month, he exploited his mastery of policy detail, his pragmatism, his focus on effectively alleviating the suffering he spotlighted, and his willingness to stake his political future on getting this bill passed to the utmost. The full eloquence and passion of the campaign came back to his lips in forum after forum and speech after speech.
To Democratic legislators, his message was that this bill epitomized why they had sought public office and why they were Democrats; it was the raison d'etre for their careers; in effect, passing it was worth their careers (and would make or break his own). In the bipartisan summit, he framed a core contrast: the Democrats would rein in the health insurers' worst practices; the Republicans would further enable them by weakening existing regulations. In rallies, he emphasized human suffering caused by leaving people uninsured and underinsured and enumerated the bill's benefits for ordinary people. As noted before, too, he presented the effort as a litmus test as to whether the Federal government was capable of taking meaningful action to solve national problems. He moved the needle of public opinion enough to move enough House Democrats to "yes."
The process may have been frustrating, and long, and ugly, as Obama told the crowd at George Mason on Friday. But it was also glorious. Obama has been telling crowds since 2007 that change wasn't going to be easy, but that it was possible with focus and persistence and courage. He just proved it.
(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty.)