Responding to Schoen and Caddell, Matthew Yglesias is particularly good at describing the admirable ideological impulse that’s moving so many Democratic politicians to throw caution to the wind (emphasis in the original):
If you're a liberal, these are inspiring words. They've inspired these two observations:“If reform passes and is signed into law, then immediately Barack Obama’s position in history is secured. When people look back from 2060 on the creation of the American welfare state, they’ll say that FDR, LBJ, and BHO were its main architects, with Roosevelt enshrining the principle of universal social insurance into law and Obama completing the initial promise of the New Deal. Members of congress who helped him do that will have a place in history. Nobody’s going to be very interested in a story like 'Mike Ross served a bunch of years in Congress and people were impressed with his ability to win a relatively conservative district; he didn’t achieve very much and one day he wasn’t in Congress anymore.'
“Which is just to say that nobody lasts in office forever, no congressional majority lasts forever, and no party controls the White House forever. But the measure of a political coalition isn’t how long it lasted, but what it achieved.”
First, there’s at least one respect in which today’s “pass-the-damn-bill” liberals aren’t emulating the New Dealers and the LBJ liberals. They thought, in the words of FDR’s Second Inaugural Address, that they were making “the exercise of all power more democratic . . . [by] bring[ing] private autocratic powers into their proper subordination to the public’s government.” The liberals who spearheaded the passage of the Social Security Act and Medicare, thought of themselves as unheroic democratic politicians representing a stable governing coalition. If they thought that those progressive reforms were irreversible, it was because they couldn’t imagine that future democratic majorities would ever stand for their being reversed. It would never have occurred to New Dealers or LBJ liberals that they were seizing a fleeting “historic” opportunity.
Second, if passing ObamaCare is something that can only happen under ephemeral electoral circumstances, you have to ask whether liberals are thinking clearly about the filibuster. If all it takes to make social policy in the Senate is 51 votes, what’s to keep future legislative majorities--maybe even the majorities installed by the next election--from summarily depriving unemployed liberal politicians of their historic achievement? If liberals really are committed to securing a “place in history” by passing ObamaCare in the face of majoritarian pressures, shouldn’t they be the last people opposing the filibuster?