Another scenario has Democrats like Obama and Durbin pushing these cuts through anyway to demonstrate to the commentariat and other receptive audiences that they are, in fact, the "adults" of American politics (if "adulthood" has become synonymous with a lack of vision or courage.)
Entitlement cuts are not an "adult" position. They're a traditionally conservative position -- and would mean a significant retrenchment for the Democratic Party's signature achievements.
None of the above
There's another scenario, however, one which points toward a significantly brighter future. That's the scenario in which progressives, both officeholders and activists, lead a popular movement which reflects public opinion and defends these programs from so-called "Grand Bargain" cuts.
It won't be easy. The viewpoint of a vast majority of Americans -- including the vast majority of Republicans, and even of Tea Party members -- has been marginalized inside the Beltway as that of "the left," or even "the extreme left." Politicians who defend these programs will have to stand up to the talking heads and lobbyists who, despite all the evidence, continue to deny the truth: their anti-"entitlement" Beltway views stand well outside the mainstream of American public opinion.
That crowd, with its talk of "Baby Boomers busting the bank" and "Social Security gone bankrupt," is the real political "fringe" in this debate. Unfortunately, this "fringe" has a lot of money behind it.
It won't be an easy victory. But it's the only ending to this story in which everybody lives happily ever after: Seniors and disabled people aren't forced unnecessarily into penury or financial insecurity. Good Democrats get elected, or reelected, to office. A serious conversation is begun about how to mitigate the effects of runaway profit-seeking on American health care.
That scenario won't come by itself. People will have to work for it. But it would be more than worth the effort.