Politics is the ultimate game of risk and reward.  Seldom have the stakes been higher than they are for President Obama and the Democrats with the pressure to pass healthcare legislation.  There are great risks in failing to pass reformist legislation.  There are also perils if the legislation passes.

Democrats face the potential of major congressional losses and demoralization in the 2010 midterm elections if they can’t enact the cornerstone program of their ‘08  platform.  A failure to pass healthcare legislation would further energize the Republicans and solidify their base, once again, that had been searching for an identity after their last election defeat.

It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario.  Even if healthcare legislation passes, Democrats risk losing their own liberal base if there’s too much compromise with Republicans and the bill is watered down.  If the bill passes with a government option, the “Blue Dog” Democrats and independent voters could swing back to the Republicans in the next election.

For a president who ran for office wearing the mantle of change, failure to pass healthcare reform could spell a one-term presidency for Obama.  The president has invested his popularity, reputation and political capital in passing significant legislation this term.  While the escalating war in Afghanistan is another major cause for Obama’s ongoing loss in approval ratings, healthcare still takes front and center.

But there’s more at risk than just Democrats reelection chances.  America has to choose if it truly wants to embrace the politics of positive change, or if they want to retain the previous do-nothing politics of the status quo and tax cuts.  For a nation facing serious issues in healthcare, the economy and the environment, change is the only true long-term option that makes sense.

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