Continuing with the thought process that people like Ezra Klein and Ned Resnikoff are going through, if we end up at the midterms with no progress on health care (and I'll even give partial credit for Medicare & Medicaid expansion, the prospects of which strike me as very dubious), at that point it's abundantly clear that it's impossible to govern the United States at the federal level. All that can happen is some tax cuts and various regulatory rule changes, most of which will be co-opted by interest groups.
The most depressing thing about the current moment is that no one seems to care. The Senate isn't trying to buck up the House. The White House seems okay with doing nothing and instead moving on to financial reform. Meanwhile, as long as health care isn't "done" after all of this effort, Villagers will write godawful process stories. The amazing thing is that I think enough Members have internalized 1994 to mean that failure is the worst option, and yet they seem physically incapable of bringing themselves to do anything about it. The odds that there will be a Senate majority like this one in the next twenty years are staggeringly low, and the opportunities about to disappear without anyone taking advantage of the situation. If that happens, it's hard to see how the current cultural climate will lead to any progress on the country's major problems.
Still, there are other ways to push the culture in the right direction, so that one day the people running the federal government can feel confident in their ability to push a progressive agenda. We could just focus our attention at the state level, getting more states and more voters comfortable with the idea of truly universal health care, or that the government has to play a role in pushing clean energy. We could ally with the populist right to push a collection of procedural reforms: more accountability for the Fed, more Congressional leverage against warmaking policy, less of the Senate generally. We could become Republicans and attempt to intervene in GOP primaries so that there is more bipartisan consensus. But at present, if, as Resnikoff says, neither major political party in the United States is semi-functional at the national level, then federal legislative action isn't something we can look for.
I don't think it's over yet ... I have a post on this tomorrow ... but it doesn't look good.