Eyal Press is a Nation contributing editor and the author of Beautiful Souls: The Courage and Conscience of Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times and Absolute Convictions: My Father, a City, and the Conflict That Divided America. He is also a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute.
So the tide turned Tuesday on Democrats, liberals, Obama, the left. Republicans are "energized," The New York Times reports today, their elation marred only by the prospect of an inter-party feud that could cost them winnable races in 2010.
So the conventional wisdom asserts. Intelligent conservatives know better. One of them is Andrew Pavelyev, who, over at David Frum's blog, parsed the results of Tuesday's election in a strangely overlooked state: North Carolina.
As everyone knows, Barack Obama narrowly won North Carolina a year ago. As most people agree, Republicans must win it back to defeat him in 2012. So what happened on Tuesday? As Pevelyev observed, Republican Bill Knight won the mayoral race in Greensboro, defeating the incumbent Democrat. "Unfortunately," he went on to note, "Greensboro will now be the only North Carolina city with a population over 100,000 that has a Republican mayor. After an unbroken 22yearstring of Republican mayors, Charlotte yesterday elected a Democrat, Anthony Foxx. The Democrats also won 8 out of 11 seats on the city council."
So the public option isn't quite dead yet. Democrats – Harry Reid, no less – showed some spine. Progressive advocacy groups are ecstatic. Conservatives are aghast.
But before anyone on the left (or right) gets too excited, it's worth taking a clear-eyed look at what the "opt-out" actually entails. As the ever-shrewd Ezra Klein has observed, "It is a compromise, and a conservative one at that."
The option of a government-run plan will apparently only be offered to people who don't rely on employer-based insurance, and only in some states. Is this an improvement over the status quo? Certainly. Is it a formula for universal coverage? At least in the short-term, it's more likely to bring about a patchwork system in which less affluent people in more conservative states end up being denied choices that individuals who happen to live in places like Boston and New York enjoy.