THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL ISN’T A TRAIN…. Time‘s Jay Newton-Small has a good piece today about a larger political environment that Democrats find intimidating, but which may be poised to change.

Take a good look around, Democrats, this is likely to be as bad as it’s going to get. As Kate Pickert and I note in a story out today on, the 24-hour cable net cycle has been stuck on ugly process maneuverings in the vacuum of no score from the Congressional Budget Office and no bill. This meme just adds to the back room aura and sweetheart reputation the legislation has enjoyed for months. You’re getting hit on all sides – from the President, the Speaker, constituents, even donors. Oh, and, it turns out most folks really do hate you.

But, oh how quickly things can change. If you pass the bill, next week’s coverage is likely to trumpet triumph, the most productive legislative session since LBJ, an historic and seminal victory. It’s getting from here to there that’s the hard part….

I can appreciate why some antsy Dems would be feeling anxiety about this. It’s the kind of fear that can cloud one’s judgment, and lead a lawmaker to think that failure will pay greater political dividends than success — a conclusion that wouldn’t even be considered by someone thinking clearly.

That’s why it takes some courage to finish the task and reap the rewards of a historic victory. Risk-averse politicians in competitive districts tend not to care for courage — it invariably means doing something that may cost them votes — but it tends to pay off in the end.

As Paul Krugman explained yesterday, a week from now there will be headlines about Dems winning a hard-fought victory or losing a humiliating defeat: “[I]t’s up to a handful of Democrats to decide which headlines we get. They’re out of their minds if they don’t choose door #1.”

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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.