This Isn’t an Electorate; It’s a Lit Match

 

shutterstock_299214437And 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?

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  1. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    Troy Senik, Ed.: Last week, Democrats worked themselves into a froth (see what I did there?)

    I totally saw that.

    Troy Senik, Ed.: 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?

    A bit of both! The fundamental problem is that we, and I’m presuming to speak for Ricochet here so forgive me, think that the Presidential race should be about policy and good governance. It’s not, or at least isn’t any longer. We now have a popularity contest.

    Now this is, in my opinion, a relatively new occurrence otherwise Bernie and the Donald would make more sense to longtime political junkies.

    Mitt Romney scored higher on every single issue except “he likes me!” That Obama was reelected still depresses me, but America is voting for homecoming queen, not class president and Obama is the person they wanted to see on that float.

    • #1
  2. Great Ghost of Gödel Inactive
    Great Ghost of Gödel
    @GreatGhostofGodel

    It is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    Get back to me when either the Democratic or Republican Party shows serious signs of going the way of the Know-Nothings or Whigs. Hell, get back to me when there’s a 5% uptick in registration in any existing American third party.

    Sideshow. Irrelevant. Doesn’t mean a [CoC] thing.

    Unfortunately.

    • #2
  3. Frozen Chosen Inactive
    Frozen Chosen
    @FrozenChosen

    While I don’t think that Trump will get the GOP nomination I do think that Bernie’s chances are about 30% and climbing to beat Hillary for the Dem spot.  2008 showed that the Clinton machine is not as effective in the primaries as in the general because the special interest groups that make up the Democrat electorate can vote for Bernie just as easily as they vote for Hillary.  If voting for Bernie becomes hip than he’s got a chance.

    On the GOP side I’m not going to worry until Trump starts winning primaries.  I think getting Carly on stage in the next debate will bring his jerkiness to the forefront, leaving only the angry misogynists to support him.

    • #3
  4. Probable Cause Inactive
    Probable Cause
    @ProbableCause

    Another symptom: all the apocalyptic movies and T.V. shows around these days.  I think people sense that something’s wrong.

    • #4
  5. gnarlydad Inactive
    gnarlydad
    @gnarlydad

    My two cents: this is more than a summer storm, people are no longer willing to sit and listen silently as the pundits do the thinking for them. Whether this storm breaks left or right is anybody’s guess, but given the public’s reflexive cynicism of the news media in general and the current administration’s mouthpieces in particular, I’m hopeful for a return to conservative principles and common sense governance. But then, I really, really thought Romney had a chance back in ‘012.

    Take it for what it’s worth, which ain’t much.

    • #5
  6. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    Probable Cause: Another symptom: all the apocalyptic movies and T.V. shows around these days.  I think people sense that something’s wrong.

    Ah, fin de siecle! We always seem to be living in the end times, except for the “holiday from history” in the 90’s. Ronald Reagan was truly a giant: he managed to stand athwart history and it obeyed his command to stop.

    The good news is it’s easier than ever to stock up for the end of the world.

    • #6
  7. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Yes, it’s a powder keg waiting to blow. But the problem is greater than inadequate representation.

    As I’ve argued many times before, public hatred has been normalized. The ideological split between Americans has become a line between enemies, rather than mere opponents. Demonization is no longer the preferred strategy of a few nuts. Lies and calumny are the bread and butter of leading Democrats, reporters, entertainers, and figures throughout popular culture. This role modeling is echoed in private interactions between common Americans. Our corporations bend to politically correct absurdity in new ways every week. Conservatives are not tolerated beyond our own gatherings.

    Frustration is what becomes of anger when it cannot be productively expressed. However the elections go, American citizens are bristling on both sides and won’t be sated by simply hearing their own anguish echoed in idle political theater.

    • #7
  8. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Austin Murrey: America is voting for homecoming queen, not class president and Obama is the person they wanted to see on that float.

    Is that because many Americans lives willingly under a paternal government that treats them like irresponsible adolescents?

    Something big is going on, I don’t know what it is, but it is not good.

    • #8
  9. donald todd Inactive
    donald todd
    @donaldtodd

    For those of us who remember Reagan, we hope for good governance.  There might be someone on the Democrat side who draws that hope as well (although as a former Democrat, other than Kennedy’s appeal) I cannot think of anyone.

    So, we’ve moved to sideshow politics and people who should not show up are showing up.  Instead of running for the Senate, they are running for president.

    • #9
  10. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    gnarlydad: people are no longer willing to sit and listen silently as the pundits do the thinking for them.

    just because people reject the commentary of pundits doesn’t really mean they are thinking for themselves…

    • #10
  11. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Angelo Codevilla has been preaching this sermon for a while now. There is an enormous disconnect between the governed and the governors, which is a terrible thing a system designed to be of, for, and by the people.

    • #11
  12. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    The King Prawn:Angelo Codevilla has been preaching this sermon for a while now. There is an enormous disconnect between the governed and the governors, which is a terrible thing a system designed to be of, for, and by the people.

    Is there a SANE way to reclaim it?

    • #12
  13. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    I’m not confident enough to say. Frankly, I’m always a little surprised at devotees of any candidate at this point. I can concede the virtues of any (Republican) candidate. I just can’t get past the downside on any single candidate enough to say, “She (or he) is the one.

    /see what I did there?

    It looks like we’re beginning the process of elimination on the Republican side. Rick Perry can’t pay his staff. There are about 13 other candidates I’d rather see drop out of the race first. Instead, we’re all on this roller coaster ride together and most of us are set to be disappointed in the end.

    • #13
  14. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Jules PA:

    The King Prawn:Angelo Codevilla has been preaching this sermon for a while now. There is an enormous disconnect between the governed and the governors, which is a terrible thing a system designed to be of, for, and by the people.

    Is there a SANE way to reclaim it?

    I fear there is not. A move back to the constitution would be catastrophic as it would eliminate almost all of what the national government does now and leave the states to fend for themselves. It would be like releasing a captive animal back in the wild with none of the natural skills needed for self preservation.

    • #14
  15. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Western Chauvinist: Frankly, I’m always a little surprised at devotees of any candidate at this point. I can concede the virtues of any (Republican) candidate. I just can’t get past the downside on any single candidate enough to say, “She (or he) is the one.”

    Agreed. There’s more than one reasonable choice. We’ll see who is standing at the end.

    Iowans will get to choose between sixteen candidates. Texans will get to choose between four… with one or two already established before the others. Who I like at this point doesn’t matter. My betters will decide for me.

    • #15
  16. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    Jules PA: Is that because many Americans lives willingly under a paternal government that treats them like irresponsible adolescents? Something big is going on, I don’t know what it is, but it is not good.

    Well part of it is because covering presidential politics is apparently really, really boring. You go to the umpteenth town and hear a stump speech for the umpteenth time and Trump’s presidential campaign is like manna from heaven. He’s liable to say absolutely anything at any time and that means you can have fun following his campaign. I’d bet there’s been at least one heated argument over who deserves to cover him.

    But the other part of it is how politics is covered for most Americans. Duelling newscasts and an-ever-smaller-pie for viewers with TV and the Internet means you’ve got to figure out a way to draw in viewers and the latest outrage is a good way to do that. And when you’re not arguing views or policies but who’s positive/outrageous/likeable (remember that Tiger Beat-ish piece about Obama working out from ’08?) you change the nature of the debate.

    • #16
  17. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    I disagree on the source of the real problem.  The breadown of western civilization is leading to the breakdown of the United States of America.  Our institutions and values are deteriorating, and it will have consequential downside.  The fact that a socialist has raoaring crowds is telling.  The fact that a course, blowhard like Trump can be leading in the right of center party is a symptom of a much larger problem.  I was just thinking of a famous William F. Buckley quote I just used in another post here.  It’s worth quoting again:

    A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.

    • #17
  18. SParker Member
    SParker
    @SParker

    Man, it really does feel like a revolutionary year*. ( Of course “Trust is dead! Revolution!  No Pasaran! has been my standard greeting for years; really should go back to “Hello, how are you?”).  It also feels like a Seinfeld revolution–about nothing–but then again about really fundamental things (note: work this into the opening line for that novel-in-progress about London and Paris during the Terror.)  A lot of indignant stamping of pretty little feet everywhere you look.  Haven’t got a clue on the outcome, but the odds-on bet is on worn-out darling pairs of pumps, exhaustion, and a return to muddling through– as much as one might wish for better.

    *Although, if you didn’t keep up with the news, you’d be pressed to know anything was happening.  It’s really quite calm here in my actual day-to-day.

    • #18
  19. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    Great Ghost of Gödel: Get back to me when either the Democratic or Republican Party shows serious signs of going the way of the Know-Nothings or Whigs. Hell, get back to me when there’s a 5% uptick in registration in any existing American third party.

    This is the correct standard by which to judge how serious an upheaval what is happening actually is.

    • #19
  20. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    Frank Soto: This is the correct standard by which to judge how serious an upheaval what is happening actually is.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAT_BuJAI70

    • #20
  21. Ontheleftcoast Member
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Glenn Reynolds also said this about the “orphaned voters” who know that neither party speaks for them:

    Of course, orphaned voters aren’t a bug but a feature for a ruling class that would prefer to rule without them. But in a democracy, which America still is, voters don’t stay orphaned forever.

    In this election cycle, Trump and Sanders have come forward to claim the orphaned vote. It’s very likely that, this time around, the ruling class will manage to put orphaned voters back in the political orphanage by the time Election Day rolls around next year.

    Codevilla’s identification of a permanent bipartisan ruling class is “influential” because it put a name to what a lot of people – Reynolds’ orphaned voters – were already thinking.
    The orphans know that border control must precede immigration reform and any amnesty.

    The permanent ruling class would have it otherwise. Its members will weasel on border control (like promising opposite things in English and Spanish) and use words like “comprehensive” on immigration policy.

    As Reynolds says, what impedes them from fully implementing their agenda is that America is still a democracy. For the ruling class has its way, a one party democracy, or an oligarchy with a (R) and a (D) hand would both work fine.

    Look for them to seek to disarm the law abiding, promote race and class divisions, and put conditions in place to encourage mob action. Look for “oderint, dum metuant.”

    • #21
  22. John Hendrix Thatcher
    John Hendrix
    @JohnHendrix

    Frozen Chosen: On the GOP side I’m not going to worry until Trump starts winning primaries.  I think getting Carly on stage in the next debate will bring his jerkiness to the forefront, leaving only the angry misogynists to support him.

    We cannot have that debate soon enough!

    • #22
  23. John Hendrix Thatcher
    John Hendrix
    @JohnHendrix

    Troy: This post’s title ends with the phrase “lit match”. How confident are you that it shouldn’t be “lit fuse”?

    • #23
  24. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    All the other polls on RCP do show that the debate hurt Trump — not knocked out, but weakened.  And — even though it still shows him in the lead — the internals on the Iowa poll on those who watched his debate performance are very, very bad.

    There’s something big going on, but it involves a far smaller section of the electorate than you would think from the headlines.  Some of that support is name recognition, some will move to another more credible candidate if and when one proves compelling, and some will stick to Trump to the bitter end — like Ron Paul’s supporters before them.  It’s a little larger in the polls right now (though the celebrity effect may explain that), but Trump loyalty does seem to be a very similar phenomenon to Paul loyalty, and I can’t help wondering if there is overlap.  Rand still has some of those libertarians, but he isn’t quite catching on as he’d hoped.

    What I don’t know — and don’t think anyone knows — is to what extent immigration, and immigration alone, is the key to the surge.  The evidence either way is not convincing.

    • #24
  25. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt
    @BrianWatt

    We’ve reached the “I’m Spartacus” moment in American presidential politics where just about everyone believes they are qualified to be president and isn’t shy in the least about saying so. Everyone who feels uniquely qualified should engage in free-for-all, hand-to-hand gladiatorial combat until there’s only one man or woman standing. No lions and tigers allowed because they could get hurt and we can’t have that.

    • #25
  26. EHerring Coolidge
    EHerring
    @EHerring

    1.  Codevilla has been onto this for a while.  Pat Caddell has figured it out and preached his findings on the cruise.  The only ones who haven’t figured it out are those considered the ruling class.  The winner will be the candidate who figures it out.

    2.  There will be a struggle between these two classes inside both parties.  The ruling class are in politics to wield power and won’t give it up willingly.

    3.  A country class president will only please some for the country class are divided along ideological lines, like oil and water, incompatible.  The left has been devious in growing the dependent class to permanently retain power.

    4.  How will it end? Unpleasantly.  While the country class can be happy joining the ruling class, the reverse isn’t true.  And then there is the oil and water problem.  Not only has the left created a dependent class, it has been destroying the remnants of the culture that created the Constitution, our concepts of freedom, and the role of government re its citizens.

    • #26
  27. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    The King Prawn:

    Jules PA:

    The King Prawn:Angelo Codevilla has been preaching this sermon for a while now. There is an enormous disconnect between the governed and the governors, which is a terrible thing a system designed to be of, for, and by the people.

    Is there a SANE way to reclaim it?

    I fear there is not. A move back to the constitution would be catastrophic as it would eliminate almost all of what the national government does now and leave the states to fend for themselves. It would be like releasing a captive animal back in the wild with none of the natural skills needed for self preservation.

    or taking a cranky baby’s pacifier?

    • #27
  28. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt
    @BrianWatt

    Screaming into pillows. Well, I never – –

    I for one won’t make fun of Donald Trump or his supporters because that would be unfair…unless I’m bored and there isn’t much else to do.

    • #28
  29. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Brian Watt:We’ve reached the “I’m Spartacus” moment in American presidential politics where just about everyone believes they are qualified to be president and isn’t shy in the least about saying so. Everyone who feels uniquely qualified should engage in free-for-all, hand-to-hand gladiatorial combat until there’s only one man or woman standing. No lions and tigers allowed because they could get hurt and we can’t have that.

    well, after 7 years of Obama…isn’t just about anyone qualified.

    [sarcasmOff]

    • #29
  30. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Trump fades with Walker, Rubio, Bush, and Fiorina all hanging in there.  In the end, Bush wins it because it was rigged that way and all of the witty folks here laughing over conspiracy jokes will wonder what happened because your brains can’t contain the idea.  Then Bush loses to some dark horse the dems bring up.

    • #30

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