Now I'd like to separate two elements of this violation of political faith.
First, his reiteration over time of his defence of the public option and its outright necessity. I don't want hear about how people imagined Obama was more progressive than he in fact is or presented himself to be; I don't want to hear about he was an empty slate on which people projected their own desires and ideals. Not in this case. In this case, we have a very specific policy position advanced and defended over and over. However progressive Obama may have seemed on this narrow issue was a direct effect of his own analyses and avowals. Any one who took his words on the public option to implicate a more far reaching progressivism has only themselves to blame. But Obama himself is responsible, and solely responsible, for the impression he deliberately created concerning the public option itself. Obama in this instance was not the merely the fortunate vehicle of others' illusions, he was and is a LIAR.
Second, and more importantly, Obama did not espouse the public option for its own sake, nor as the expression of a broadly communitarian, dare I say socialist philosophy. No, he esoused the public option because some instrument was needed to lower costs. The public option was to intervene and recalibrate the health care marketplace, to the effect of lowering the cost structure the insurance companies could impose.
Without the public option, Obama needs some other instrument, and he is now fighting for his alternative: an excise tax on "cadillac" plans for health insurance. The phrase cadillac plan itself seems to have been coined to give the impression that if the democrats no longer have the stomach to take on corporate america, they will instead target their agents and clients, the super-rich. Unfortunately, the evidence shows that this excise tax will fall heavily, one might even say disproportionately on union households and middle class households. Oh the irony. Obama not only abandons the public option, and what is left of his own integrity, but in so doing he transfers the social costs of his health plan form their original target, big insurance to...wait for it...WORKING PEOPLE. Really!
On the one hand, this gives the lie once and for all to the right wing canard that Obama is some sort of crypto-socialist: from a Marxist-Leninist perspective, he looks rather like a calss enemy. On the other, it begs the question why anyone, right or left, is still supporting him. Having defied the conservative mandate of no tax hikes (which in the midst of a quasi-depression would also be a liberal, Keynesian mandate as well), he targets his new "health" tax on labor rather than ownership.
There came a point in George Bush's presidency when I could no longer understand how even partisan Republicans could continue to support him, so devoid was he of both basic competence and a fidelity to bedrock democratic principles. I have reached a similar point with Obama: so devoid is he of fidelity to basic Democratic principles--not to mention fidelity as such--that the attempts to rationalize his massive failure, under such rubrics as "change takes time," come off as merely embarrassing and more than a little pathetic. His health care bill will garner the votes of exactly zero republicans; it will frustrate the will, the intent, the desires and the values of most democrats, including, if his campaign speeches are credited, the president himself. A new, entirely negative form of bipartisanship has been achieved, and it demands the ouster, in the 2012 democratic primaries, of its lead architect.