I’ve mentioned this before, but as Marcy Wheeler reminds us in the wake of Barack Obama’s election the main reason to be hopeful about the prospects for universal health care wasn’t so much the election of a new progressive president as the fact that Max Baucus, one of the most conservative members of the Democratic caucus and also Chairman of the Finance Committee, had essentially adopted the main outline of Hillary Clinton’s universal health care plan.
One natural question to wonder is what happened to this? Does Baucus still think those were good ideas? If he does, I would be eager to see him write them up as legislation and see what kind of support they can garner. Maybe 60 votes aren’t there. But I’d like to see. Nobody can accuse Baucus of being a wild-eyed liberal or a member of the “left of the left.” It seems to me that we’re stuck in a dysfunctional dynamic where you have a powerful centrist senator lay some ideas out (including, for example, a public option), which leads progressives to embrace them as a realistic path to reform, which leads the centrist ideas to be rebranded as left-wing ideas which, in turn, leads to the ideas being abandoned by centrists. Very hard to accomplish anything that way.