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And this cycle keeps getting weirder. From Phillip Rucker at the Washington Post:
Presidential candidates usually don’t run on promises to vacate the White House once they get in office, but that’s what Lawrence Lessig said he might do as he begins exploring a protest bid for the 2016 Democratic nomination.
Lessig, a Harvard law professor and government reform activist, announced Tuesday morning that he was launching a presidential exploratory committee to run as what he called a “referendum president” with the chief purpose of enacting sweeping changes to the nation’s political system and ethics laws.
In the interview, conducted by phone on Monday ahead of his announcement, Lessig said he would serve as president only as long as it takes to pass a package of government reforms and then resign the office and turn the reins over to his vice president. He said he would pick a vice president “who is really, clearly, strongly identified with the ideals of the Democratic Party right now,” offering [Elizabeth] Warren as one possibility. He said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), whom he considers a friend and has drawn huge crowds in his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, was another option.
Lessig said he would spend the next month testing the waters to determine whether he would have enough support and resources to wage a credible campaign. If he raises $1 million by Labor Day, he said, he will formally launch his candidacy. If not, he will return the money to donors and go home.
I doubt Lessig changes the Vegas odds, but, given the other news of the day, I’m no longer sure where the outer bounds of American politics are.
Item 1: Bernie Sanders drew a crowd of over 27,000 to the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena last night (ever seen an all-Prius traffic jam?).
Item 2: Donald Trump, whom the pundit class has confidently assured us has spent the past week imploding, hasn’t suffered one whit in the polls.
In his new USA Today column, Glenn Reynolds suggests that this is all of a piece:
Trump’s rise is, like that of his Democratic counterpart Bernie Sanders, a sign that a large number of voters don’t feel represented by more mainstream politicians. On many issues, ranging from immigration reform, which many critics view as tantamount to open borders, to bailouts for bankers, the Republican and Democratic establishments agree, while a large number (quite possibly a majority) of Americans across the political spectrum feel otherwise. But when no “respectable” figure will push these views, then less-respectable figures such as Trump or Sanders (a lifelong socialist who once wrote that women dream of gang rape, and that cervical cancer results from too few orgasms) will arise to fill the need.
But Trump and Sanders are just symptoms. The real disease is in the ruling class that takes such important subjects out of political play, in its own interest. As Angelo Codevilla wrote in an influential essay in 2010, today’s ruling class is a monoculture that has little in common with the rest of the nation.
And you don’t have to go the extremes of Sanders and Trump to see this revolt playing out. Last week, Democrats worked themselves into a froth (see what I did there?) over the idea that they might be able to get the CEO of Starbucks to compete for the presidency. On the Republican side, there are big surges right now for a retired neurosurgeon and a former tech CEO, neither of whom have ever held office before. All of which does, I think, reflect an essential loss of faith in government and the professional political class.
Here’s my question: How does this all end up playing out? Because the consensus among the talking heads right now seems to be that the voters just need to scream into a pillow for awhile — but that they’ll eventually come to their senses, nominate a couple of conventional candidates, and find their way back to equilibrium.
While it still strikes me as implausible that the likes of Sanders or Trump will wind up presidential nominees, I’m equally skeptical that this disquiet with business as usual is just going to go away on its own. It feels — perhaps because we’re approaching the end of a decade and a half in which almost every American has hated one if not both of our presidents — as if we’re on the cusp of a major shift in American politics. As for where it points: I confess that there are so many disparate threads here that I haven’t the foggiest idea.
What say you, Ricochet? Is this a passing summer storm? Or is something bigger happening in American politics? And, if the latter, where are we headed?