This excerpt from Glenn Greenwald‘s column tells the tale:
“Just consider what Nate Silver wrote yesterday in trying to understand why progressives have suddenly united behind this bill, in a post he entitled “Why Liberals (Suddenly) Love the Health Care Bill”:
“It has occurred in spite of the fact that the bill hasn’t really gotten any more liberal. Whatever might come out of the reconciliation process will be marginally more liberal than what the Senate passed on its own, but still lacks a public option or a Medicare buy-in, and suffers from most of the same flaws that some liberals were critiquing in the first place. It might have helped a little bit to get the Senate bill off the front pages — but the differences between the “Obama”/reconciliation bill and the Senate’s December bill are fairly cosmetic.”
In other words, the bill which many progressives were swearing just a couple months ago they could not and would not support (the Senate bill) is materially similar to the bill they’re now vigorously supporting (the Obama/reconciliation bill). The differences are purely “cosmetic,” as Silver says (it’s even worse than that, since one of the few positive changes progressives could point to — the Health Insurance Rate Authority, which would prevent large premium increases — was just removed from the bill). Thus, from a purely strategic perspective, Emanuel was absolutely right not to take progressives seriously because he knew they would do exactly what they did: support the bill even if their demands were ignored.
I want to be clear here: I’m not criticizing progressives who support this bill, nor am I criticizing those who insisted they would oppose it but changed their minds at the end. Unlike many progressives, I was never among those who advocated for this bill’s defeat because, as loathsome and even dangerous as I find the bill’s corporatist framework to be (mandating that citizens buy the products of the private health insurance industry), I’ve found it very difficult (as I said all along) to oppose a bill that results in greater health care coverage for millions of currently uninsured people. Whether progressives are doing the right thing in supporting this bill is debatable (there’s a strong progressive case for the bill — any bill that restricts industry abuses and vastly expands coverage is inherently progressive — and a strong progressive case that it does more harm than good), but that’s a completely separate question from the one raised by Smith.”
What’s not debatable is that this process highlighted — and worsened — the virtually complete powerlessness of the Left and progressives generally in Washington. If you were in Washington negotiating a bill, would you take seriously the threats of progressive House members in the future that they will withhold support for a Party-endorsed bill if their demands for improvements are not met? Of course not. No rational person would.