As much as I’m disappointed by the outcome, I have to love Nate Silver’s analogy/analysis of the failed push for a public option. Essentially, Silver’s take is that the core group of conservative Democrats were never going to accept a public option, said so early, repeated it whenever they were asked, and so, a bill containing a public option was never going to beat a filibuster.
Suppose the following scenario plays out when you’re trying to buy a used car:
Dealer: The price of the car is $2,000.
You: For that beat-up Honda Accord? I’ll give you $1,200.
Dealer: Nope, it’s $2,000.
You: How about $1,500?
Dealer: I’m going to stick with $2,000.
You: Will $1,700 get it done?
Dealer: My best and final offer is $2,000.
You: Give a guy a break! $1,875?
You: $1,995 and a free Slurpee coupon?
Dealer: Now we’re talking — step into my office.
Is that a negotiation in bad faith? Is the dealer moving the goalposts? No. He’s being very stubborn and very firm — but he’s also being very explicit about what he wants. It’s possible that you were an incompetent negotiator and that maybe if your first offer had come in a little lower, or a little higher, you could have gotten a better price. But more likely the dealer simply had more of the leverage and ultimately $2,000 is an acceptable price to you, even if it’s more than you were hoping to pay.
Progressives did just about everything in their power to try to get a decent public option into the bill. They threatened. They bargained. They complained. They organized. They persuaded. They begged. There was the opt-in, the opt-out, the trigger, the Medicare buy-in. There was no lack of initiative or creativity. And they actually had quite a bit of success: from 43 votes in August, they got up to perhaps as many as 48-52 for a strong-ish public option, and 57-59 for a weak-ish one. People like Kay Hagan, Tom Carper and Kent Conrad, to varying degrees, came on board.
But just because you perceive yourself as being in a negotiation with another party doesn’t entitle you to win that negotiation, or even to split things halfway. Sometimes your adversary doesn’t think there’s anything to negotiate at all. Sometimes they would in theory be willing to negotiate if you could find the right leverage point, but there’s nothing that fits the bill, for all your best efforts. Sometimes their first offer is pretty much as good as it’s going to get, and not merely a negotiating ploy.
What’s that? Oh, yes. Silver explicitly excludes Sen. Joe Lieberman (Prick — CT) from this analysis. Lieberman’s about-face on the Medicare buy-in proposal, motivated seemingly only by a desire to get payback from progressives who didn’t support him against Ned LaMont, would be comic if it didn’t play with people’s lives.