There seems to be little payoff for lawmakers to try to rise above their immediate political self-interest and do the right thing for the country. There appears to be widespread recognition that the last edition of Profiles in Courage has gone to the printer. No new names will be added. All too few members of Congress see any incentive to do the politically unpalatable and often politically dangerous things required to get a country out of a deep rut.
More broadly, the Democrats failed because, thinking the economic emergency would give them the political mandate and legislative window, they tried to impose a left-wing agenda on a center-right country. The people said no, expressing themselves first in spontaneous demonstrations, then in public opinion polls, then in elections -- Virginia, New Jersey and, most emphatically, Massachusetts.
That's not a structural defect. That's a textbook demonstration of popular will expressing itself -- despite the special interests -- through the existing structures. In other words, the system worked.