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If Democrats don’t stop Trumpcare, don’t call it a failure.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

In response to activist pressure, and the deafening silence of major media organizations, Senate Democrats will step up tactical pressure on Republicans to show their secret health care bill to the public. “Beginning Monday night,” Politico reports, “Democrats will start objecting to all unanimous consent requests in the Senate…. They plan to control the floor of the chamber Monday night and try to force the House-passed health care bill to committee in a bid to further delay it.”

Because Republicans are attempting to pass their Obamacare repeal through a filibuster-proof process, Democrats can only stop it by weakening Republican resolve. Their tactics thus operate on two related channels: first, increase public pressure to release the bill text and open up the legislative process; second, delay Republicans’ final vote as long as possible, so that the scrutiny has time to take a political toll on individual lawmakers. But the entire approach is premised, quite rightly, on the understanding that 50 Republican senators can pass a terrible bill as long as their determination to pass something exceeds their fear of political blowback.

It is of critical importance to people who are benefitting from the Affordable Care Act, and to Democrats who must be responsive to their constituents, that Senate Democrats try anything to stop the health care bill. But it is just as important that beneficiaries, activists, and others outside the process understand that even a perfectly executed opposition campaign—complete with huge rallies, sit-ins, dilatory tactics, and an effective media strategy—won’t necessarily work. Just as it wasn’t ultimately within Democrats’ power to stop Republicans from confirming Neil Gorsuch, it isn’t necessarily in their power to stop Trumpcare.

As important as it is for Democrats to get caught trying to stop the secret Republican health care bill, it is just as important that honest people don’t confuse failure with capitulation.