Trump doesn’t have a mandate for Paul Ryan’s agenda

Trump isn’t in the Eisenhower or Clinton category because his own electoral performance was underwhelming, just as his party’s was in Congress. Instead, the better comparison is to George W. Bush, who like Trump lost the popular vote and also saw his party lose seats in Congress. But Bush also governed in a fairly bipartisan fashion early in his term2 before moving to the right after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Instead of offering a centrist or a populist solution, however, the AHCA gave voters a bill that nobody was asking for. Republicans have been running on repealing and replacing Obamacare for seven years, and they’ve won a lot of elections in that period. You can argue that they have a mandate on the issue, even if they don’t have one overall. But Ryan and Trump pretty much ignored where public opinion stands on health care. Medicaid, which the AHCA would have rolled back, is extremely popular, for instance. About two-thirds of voters support government funding for Planned Parenthood; the AHCA would have cut it. But the bill didn’t do much to address the problems voters were actually concerned about, such as rising premiums.

Furthermore, Ryan and Trump advanced this bill despite receiving a warning shot from the public: Obamacare had almost immediately become more popular after Trump won the election. I don’t recall a lot of other times when public opinion shifted so quickly on a bill in response to an election result.3 It was as though voters were throwing up a big yield sign to congressional Republicans — we didn’t expect Trump to win the election; instead, we elected you to serve as a check on Hillary Clinton, so proceed with caution. Ryan barreled right on through it.