WHEN PROGRESSIVES MAKE PROGRESS…. It’s probably safe to say that, at countless times over the last several months, Democratic leaders on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue desperately wanted progressive activists to pipe down. The fight over health care reform has been extremely tricky, and the majority continues to run into overwhelming opposition from conservatives. All the while, the Democratic base kept making demands, mobilizing support, coordinating with like-minded lawmakers, and fighting for every inch of reform real estate.

There’s still a sizable chasm between where we are now and the finish line, but it’s worth taking a moment to acknowledge that the relative strength of the Senate reform plan is, at least in part, due to the tireless work of progressive activists and their allies on the Hill.

Democratic leaders were forced to include a national public health insurance option as part of health care reform by progressive Democratic senators who refused to support anything less, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on Monday. […]

For many years, it’s been centrist and conservative-leaning senators who have been scoring legislative victories by digging in their heels, so this represented a quite dramatic turnabout. It is difficult to remember the last time that progressives won a legislative victory by laying down firm demands and sticking to them. In the House, the Congressional Progressive Caucus has found its feet, too, and is locked in a final battle with conservative Democrats over the shape of a public option.

When I was in high school, I knew a coach who used to talk all the time about which team “wanted it more.” A game features all kinds of intangibles, and factors outside players’ control, but in certain, close contests, it can come down to who wants it more.

And over the last several weeks, as the reform debate took a series of twists and turns, progressives made it clear exactly who wanted it more.

That said, it’s hardly a done deal. As hard as reformers have worked of late, now it gets interesting. Indeed, one of the reasons the left was able to show it wanted it more was because the other team had started to assume the public option was dead and not worth worrying about. As the Senate bill heads to the floor, all of that changes.

But for now, progressives deserve some credit for getting us to where we are now.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.