I know the guy works at AEI, but I think you would be hard pressed to find a more objective and knowledgable observer of the lawmaking process than Norman Ornstein. I personally respect his opinion enormously, and I guess it's encouraging when he ends up validating some of my feelings about health care like he does in this outstandingly observant column in WaPo today (h/t Ezra Klein):
On the public front, it was clear that there was no groundswell for broad change. There is public dissatisfaction with the health-care system, but it is framed most by the universal public definition of reform -- "I pay less." Without some guarantee that reform thus defined will be enacted for the vast majority of Americans, the likelihood has always been that the closer government gets to enacting change, the more nervous voters would get about embracing the devil they don't know. And the closer one gets to broad change affecting 16 percent of the economy and a hefty slice of the workforce, the more those whose incomes depend on the current system will fight to keep their share.
At the same time, enacting reform the way it should be done -- with broad bipartisan leadership support and broad bipartisan majorities -- was simply not in the cards in today's political universe. Bipartisan support was clearly a non-starter in the House, if less so in the Senate, but past experience also showed that finding partisan majorities, even with healthy margins in both houses, would not be easy.
Overall, I think this sums it up well:
But having watched the lawmaking process in all its glory (and messiness) for 40 years, as well as having watched the meltdown of the Clinton health plan up close, I am seeing from the administration signs of savvy, not weakness.
I think this analysis is right on, and it's also why the push for the public option is so critical: the Administration DOES have to be flexible, can't get caught up too publicly in what it wants until it is absolutely necessary.
So we are the ones that must push very, very hard for real reform. It has a real payoff in the end, if not in 2010 but in 2020, 2030 and beyond.
Lawmaking is an epic thing that the media is incapable of covering well. Their coverage is similar to that of the blind man describing the elephant: they are not incentivized by their abilities to describe the true nature.
But we are lucky to have true experts like Ornstein to guide understanding, however small his contribution to broader understanding it might be.