The AHCA is despised by the public and opposed by most interest groups. Why is there a good chance it will pass the Senate? I think this is exactly right:
Since taking office, his signature values — showmanship, shamelessness, and corruption — have spread like kudzu in official Washington. It’s now a country where Cabinet secretaries go on television to lie and claim that a $600 billion cut to Medicaid won’t cause anyone to lose coverage. It’s a country where the speaker of the House introduces an amendment to erode protections for patients with preexisting conditions and then immediately tweets that it’s just been “VERIFIED” (by whom?) that the opposite is happening. Republican senators who a couple of months ago were criticizing the House bill’s Medicaid cuts as too harsh are now warming up to a Senate bill whose cuts are even harsher.
The watchwords of Trump-era politics are “LOL nothing matters.” If you’re in a jam, you just lie about it. If you’re caught in an embarrassing situation, you create a new provocation and hope that people move on. Everything is founded, most of all, on the assumption that the basic tribal impulses of negative partisanship will keep everyone on their side, while knowing that gerrymandering means Republicans will win every toss-up election. If you happened to believe that Republicans in office would deliver on their health care promises, well, you might be interested in a degree from Trump University.
And, again, the structural advantages Republican have are a huge part of the story. It’s not that public opinion won’t affect voting behavior at all. It’s just Republicans can afford to be more unpopular because of how severely instutitions are tilted in their favor.
Another point worth making is that while Trump is the vulgar, transparent face of dishonesty and norm destruction, McConnell is the more crucial evil genius. His crucial insight is that you can systematically violate norms without paying much or any electoral price. This should probably be a separate follow-up to Dan’s excellent post below, but McConnell putting party above country when shown clear evidence of Russian election subversion is the ultimate example. Trump is more a logical culmination of McConnell’s Republican Party than an accident. And this is part of the reason why the idea that Trump would be the Republican Carter — the end of a political coalition — is so deeply misguided.