Calling the 60-vote mark a "magic number" is an apt description, since magic is (in my estimation) in the province of imagination. It created the illusion that the Democratic Party would have a 2-year window to make whatever laws it wanted without having to take into account any pesky Republican dissent. The reality is that 60 Democrats, like any other 60 members of the Senate, have some pretty diverse ideas of what they want, and most of them have a basic understanding of how leverage works. *Any* 60 votes are hard to corral on a high-stakes issue, but once you insist that they be 60 pre-selected votes out of 100, you're basically saying that the sky is the limit on what you'll give away to get them. (The other reality is that the window turned out to be 1 year, not 2.) Furthermore, the illusion of Vast Cosmic Power means that all of your allied interests are screaming "I want it all!" at the top of their collective lungs. Is there any way to have less room to maneuver than the Democratic party had in this supposed period of omnipotence?
So, the illusion is gone. I'd prefer it hadn't happened by having Ted Kennedy succeeded by a Republican, but on the strategic level...good riddance. If the existing health care legislation gets burned down and rebuilt with different compromises, so be it--maybe with 70-80 votes in play, we'll actually get something better than we got with 60 in play. It'll turn out to be a lot of political capital invested by the Democrats for a lot of Republican advantage, but that ship has sailed, and it's time to learn to live with it.
I don't absolve the Republicans in Congress for their obstructionism--for example, it looks like they are planning to drop their holds on Executive Branch appointments some time in the 2013 or 2017--but they are not my problem at this time.