A quick response to Peter's post below: The Democratic Party has always been a sectional party of different guises--Southern pro-slavery, post-reconstruction, New Deal coalition, and Great Society. Pundits who accuse the Republicans of growing from Southern racist votes need to keep their eyes on the ball: particular interests. The New Deal-Great Society coalitions were cobbled together to serve the needs of their disparate, factious partners, through an emerging administrative state. Obamacare with its messy procedure and laughable compromises simply highlights the Democratic Party approach to legislation. You can denounce it as "Chicago politics" or socialism, but of course the senators are simply out to get what they can for their constituencies. For the place of principle here, note the party's intellect, Obama himself. One should reread Charles Kesler's study of Obama to see what might be coming in the New Year.
Republican leader McConnell may have played the best hand he could: of course with 60 votes something would pass. The point was to make the result so vile that the House might reject the compromised Senate bill. Surely a conference would destroy the compromises.
Are the Republicans any more principled, less sectional or factious? That's the subject of something longer than a blog post.
"Are the Republicans any more principled, less sectional or factious?"
I think the philosophical impulse of conservatism is better suited to principled stands. To the degree the Republican party is led by people with such an impulse ... then the answer is "yes."
I'll be candid ... if there's a principle underlying modern liberalism other than selfishness and manipulation, I'll be darned if I know what it is.
Mitch McConnell is my new hero. Having this zeppelin crash and burn would have been preferable; but given what he had to work with he did all he could do. The Democrats have rammed through an ugly mess and through McConnell's actions more people see it as just so.
I think the Democratic Party is far more in sync w/ regard to its programmatic preferences than was the case thirty years ago. The Republican Party is as well, but the change has been less radical. A generation ago, you might have found 75 members of Congress whose inclinations were closer to the median of the opposition caucus. Now (per the National Journal) you might find ten. The source of this trouble is bad parliamentary rules; it is time to flush the filibuster. Better yet, get rid of bicameralism.
I think that Democratic legislators may be marginally more inclined to generate and maintain patron-client relationships with constituency groups and do so with a greater variety of groups, so rule by the Democratic Party promotes more rent seeking than would otherwise be there. The Republican Party is a fantastic disappointment in this regard, however.
Dear to the hearts of the Democratic cognoscenti is comprehensive judicial discretion over social policy and its substantive expression in Roe v. Wade. The intellectual fraud necessary to promote and defend this has no counterpart on the other side of the aisle at this point in time, and has not in some decades.
I mean 'members of the House', not 'members of Congress'.
When I say, "The source of this trouble is bad parliamentary rules", the 'trouble' I am referring to is the incapacity to pass major legislation.
Some comments on Ken Thomas's: "messy" and "laughable" do not begin to cover it. They are such as weak terms as to be seriously misleading, given the reality. "so vile"-- now, that's more like it. However, Democratic legislators aren't simply out for their constituencies. They are also in the grip of an ideology, an extremely dangerous and destructive one.