Presidents from FDR to Nixon to Clinton tried and failed to reform the health care system, but with Barack Obama closer than ever before, the left is already blasting him for compromising too much. That's a shame, writes Clinton strategist Paul Begala, who regrets "setting the bar at 100%" in 1994 and dooming health reform for 15 years. Universal coverage may be "a moral imperative," but sticking to principles is pointless if the legislation won't pass.
Take Social Security, which originally excluded mostly Latino agricultural workers and black and immigrant domestic workers—it may have been "mean-spirited and even racist," but 74 years later it's been built into a major progressive institution. Health care might have to follow the same long-term trajectory. The left should hold its representatives to a high standard, Begala writes, but "we cannot achieve perfection in this life, and if that is our goal we will always be frustrated."