Passage of the health care reform bill without a single Republican vote raises the strategic question whether it is even worthwhile for the Democrats and the Obama administration to continue to try to negotiate with Congressional Republicans to pursue the Democrats' agenda. Perhaps they would have just as much success relying on their own members, instead of making futile efforts to compromise important legislation in the illusory hope that a few Republicans can be persuaded to get on board. A lot of people who have been second-guessing the president's strategy for months contend that if he had opened the negotiations by demanding a single payer system, or if he had pushed the public option idea harder, we might have ended up with a bill closer to what more liberal Democrats wanted. So many compromises were made to attempt to win over the Charles Grassleys and the Olympia Snowes. Maybe those compromises were unnecessary since not even moderate Republicans could be induced to vote for the final package. Research also supports a theory of negotiation (called "anchoring") that advises that starting from a more extreme position will tend to get a party a better result in the end. Even though I think there is merit to the "anchoring" idea in negotiations, I am not prepared to second-guess the administration's strategy. We really have no way of knowing if a more aggressive initial posture would have resulted in a more "liberal" bill. It seems equally likely to me that a more aggressive negotiating posture could have derailed the entire process. Look at how much anger and backlash erupted against even this moderate bill. Imagine the tea party protests that would have occurred if the administration had been pushing a true government takeover of the health care system.
I also think that even though no Republicans voted for the final bill, that was the result of a tactical decision by the Republican leadership, and there is actually a bit of support for many of the health care reforms among at least some Republicans. The initial vote in the House last year included one Republican vote, and Senator Snowe initially voted in favor of reporting the bill out of committee. Other Republicans have spoken in favor of some of the bill's elements in the past, and could be secretly in favor of some of the reforms. But Republicans are somehow better at managing party discipline than Democrats, and when the leaders told their members to just say no, they all fell in line. There are some prominent voices, notably David Frum, questioning whether the Republicans were smart to adopt such a negative strategy. If Frum is right, then the Democrats made the smart tactical decision to reach across the aisle, and the Republicans made a huge mistake in rejecting those overtures. Only time will tell, of course.
Democrats also understand that their majorities are probably going to shrink in the next Congress, so bi-partisanship may become more of a necessity. So after some of the anger dies down on both sides, cooler heads should probably recognize that the idea of bi-partisanship is not entirely dead.