Matthew Yglesias writes about something I thought about often during the health-care debate:
Something interesting is that it was during the Roosevelt era that African-Americans in started voting Democratic in large numbers. So even though the Democratic civil rights agenda of the era was puny and the welfare state was deliberately exclusionary of black interests, it at least seems to be the case that all things considered, black voters deemed the New Deal agenda to be in their interests. Of course the ideal scenario would be to say that there would have been some way to enact all the famous programs of the era without concessions to white supremacists. But I don’t see any credible account of how that could have been done. So great leadership, or appalling sellout? Most likely both. Most likely, political leadership just demands a level of cognitive dissonance and self-justification that normal people can’t muster.
If I were a congressman at the time, I don't know that I could have brought myself to vote for the Social Security Act given the fact that it was deliberately constructed to exclude black people. Yet in hindsight, it's one of the great progressive accomplishments in American history. I would have preferred a public option to have been included in the Affordable Care Act, but historically speaking, it's probably one of the less compromises liberals have had to make for the cause.