I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: Their candor about O-Care being a starting, not an ending, point for “fixing” American health care is simply astounding. Given public angst about the on cost and effect on quality of care and conservative objections to the bill as an irreversible, transformational lurch towards statism, you would think Obama and Pelosi would be scrupulous about selling the bill — even privately within the caucus lest their comments leak out — as something self-contained and modest in scope. Instead we’ve seen The One winking at House progressives about a public option down the line and now Madam Speaker hinting at god knows what to come. If you want to reach for that brass ring of single-payer eventually, you have to start the socialist carousel turning. So cue the calliope:

Pelosi said passing the bill would allow Dems to undertake a “debate” with Republicans over “what is the balanced role that government should have.”

“We have to take it to the American people, to say, this is the choice that you have,” she said. “This is the vision that they have for your health and well being, and this is the vision that we have.”…

Pelosi also sought to reassure those unhappy with the Senate bill by stressing that future legislation would follow, suggesting that after they passed this legislation Dems might try to do away with the insurance industry’s antitrust exemption, among other unnamed initiatives.

“Kick open that door, and there will be other legislation to follow,” she said. “We’ll take the country in a new direction.”

Yeah, and by “new direction” she doesn’t mean third-way Clintonian moderate liberalism. I’m not sure that Peter Beinart‘s right in thinking that O-Care means Obama has fully and unapologetically embraced hard-left liberalism — if the predictions of a red wave in the fall come true, he’ll have no choice but to tack right before 2012 — but a lot of hard-left liberals like Pelosi are going to read it that way even though passing the bill depends on the support of centrist Dems. Which leaves moderate Democrats … where?

Why exactly Obama—advised by David Axelrod, Rahm Emmanuel and Valerie Jarrett—decided to double down on health care remains unclear. But it’s a good bet that President Hillary Clinton—advised by Mark Penn—would have acted differently. And in acting the way he did, Obama has turned himself into a superjumbo Democrat. For the foreseeable future, he has forfeited any chance of bridging the red-blue divide…

Whether health care reform passes or not, Obama has embraced polarization over triangulation. He has chosen Karl Rove’s politics of base mobilization over Dick Morris’s politics of crossover appeal, with consequences not merely for how he campaigns for Democrats in 2010, but for he campaigns for himself in 2012… The DLC wing’s best hope for relevance, therefore, was that Obama himself would restrain the party’s base, that his White House would nurture a new generation of centrist candidates.

That hope is now gone. From top to bottom, Democrats have decided to bet the party’s future on the belief that Americans prefer bold liberals to cautious ones. Now it’s up to the bear.

If Blue Dogs needed any more reason to vote against this travesty beyond the polls and cost estimates, the prospect of having their wing of the party marginalized for years to come by the Pelosi wing if it passes should do the trick. Or so one would think. And yet.