Just to define our terms, I take Ezra Klein to be a guy who believes that a single-payer system is clearly a good idea and that in the meantime government-provided universal health care coverage is far better than the status quo, albeit highly imperfect compared to single-payer systems.
If I were Ezra Klein, I would love Barack Obama and his willingness to drop the forced mandate idea. But Ezra doesn’t seem to love Barack Obama for that.
I would think that Americans are a fairly libertarian people in some (selective) regards, and that we need to frame progress as "new and concession-laden, choice-friendly version of national health care." I would know full well that lack of a mandate has efficiency problems, because otherwise people don’t sign up until they get sick and adverse selection makes it unprofitable to sell insurance.
But then, if I were Ezra Klein, I would think: "Ah, at that point there is no turning back. Private health insurance companies will have to look to government for further financial aid. This might even evolve into single payer someday, and that is probably the only way we would ever get there, given American Exceptionalism." I also would think: "I [President Obama] can change my mind on the mandate later, if need be. Only policy wonks follow the flip flops on such details. And perhaps the mandate could be implemented indirectly — maybe at the state level, or framed in some other way — so that my hands are clean of apparent contradiction." I also would think: "The mandate can’t force everyone to buy health insurance anyway — forced auto insurance mandates don’t always work — so the mandate by no means eliminates the adverse selection problem anyway."
Most of all, I would think that Democrats should not waste their energy fighting — prematurely I might add — intra-party battles over issues of mostly symbolic importance.
If I were Ezra Klein, I would think that only Barack Obama has the calm, reassuring manner required to lead America down a difficult and controversial path. Only Barack Obama (and not Hillary Clinton) would enjoy a true honeymoon period as President, and maybe that is what is required to push through major health care reform. Only Barack Obama would be seen as approaching this issue from a fresh start and without biases.
If I were Ezra Klein, I would worship at the shrine of Barack Obama. I would send Barack Obama random postcards of love, affection, and yes money.
But I am not Ezra Klein, and I am not sending postcards to anybody. Instead, I am sending you this blog post on "If I were Ezra Klein."
Addendum: If Ezra Klein were Ezra Klein.