John, I think our disagreement is analogous to the difference between actual evidence and what, in litigation, is referred to as demonstrative evidence (such as charts and models that explain or reproduce for demonstrative purposes underlying evidentiary data).
The term is really a misnomer. “Demonstrative evidence” is not really evidence at all, but rather a summary reflection or representation of the real-life facts – without which there could be no charts, models, etc. The distinction is often lost on lawyers, who sometimes treat the charts as if they were the evidence — understandably so, since soaking in a snapshot is a lot easier than getting up to speed on a lot of scattered bits of real information.
The ability to pass a bill or not is similarly just a reflection of an underlying, dispositive reality. It is not itself the dispositive reality. The GOP is having trouble getting the immigration bill passed because it is a bad bill and, consequently, a lot of people don’t like it. If it does not pass, I seriously doubt the legacy will be that Republicans were bunglers who couldn’t get their act together. If it does pass, they will not be forgiven due to their apparent mastery of the legislative process since we will all have to live for years with the substantive results.
Bad is bad. I agree: If Hillary-care had passed in ‘94, the Democrats would have been better off. But not because they would then have demonstrated an ability to govern. They would have been better off because their opposition, the Republicans, having failed to stop a bad bill, would thus have demonstrated themselves to be an unworthy alternative. People turned to the GOP in ‘94 because they approved of GOP policies, not because they suspected the GOP would be whizzes at the process of governing.