K-Drum’s history of health care reform attempts is essential, and his conclusion is entirely correct:
This is what politics looks like. Every single Democratic president in my lifetime has tried to pass health care reform. Some of them partially succeeded and some failed entirely, but all of them tried. The two main things standing in the way of getting more have been (a) Republicans and (b) liberals who refused to compromise on single-payer.
Contra Cooper, George Bush did not hand Obama a “great big majority.” Democrats in 2009 had a big majority in the House and a zero-vote majority in the Senate. That’s the thinnest possible majority you can have, and this is the reason Obamacare is so limited. To pass, it had to satisfy the 40th most conservative senator, so that’s what it did.
There’s been a long and ultimately sterile argument over whether Obama could have gotten more. I think the evidence suggests he got as much as he could, but the truth is that we’ll never know for sure. And it doesn’t change the bigger picture anyway: thousands of Democrats—politicians, activists, think tankers, and more—have literally spent decades working their fingers to the bone creating plan after plan; selling these plans to the public; and trying dozens of different ways to somehow push health care reform through Congress. For most of that time it’s been a hard, grinding, thankless task, and we still don’t have what we ultimately want. But in the end, all of these hacks and wonks have made a difference and helped tens of millions of people. They deserve our respect, not a bit of casually tossed off disparagement just because they didn’t propose single-payer health care as their #1 priority every single year of their lives.
Evidently, a lot of people wonder about why Obama/Reid/Pelosi weren’t able to get more. I’m increasingly amazed they were able to pass anything.