I’ve followed and enjoyed Jonathan Bernstein‘s disquisitions on American politics. I don’t always agree (his preference for the Madisonian presidential system, his views about money in politics), but he’s practical and open and good at linking to other political scientists.
He’s also been one of the leading proponents of The Party Decides thesis, which, to simplify matters immensely, argues that party insiders force discipline on the nominating process. I first reported on, then came to agree with, this notion, largely because what Bernstein wrote about it made sense.
Of course, “making sense” doesn’t equal “correct”, as we’re all seeing in the current contest, and which Bernstein admits:
So, this is a not-at-all-direct prelude to the question: why didn’t Bernstein or other political scientists (or I) see Trump coming?
Another piece: Bernstein has been arguing, for years, that the Republicans at the federal level have become dysfunctional and (institutionally) irresponsible. He’s noted their disinclination to negotiate on bills which relate to their priorities, their unwillingness to vote on nominees which they themselves support to bureaucratic positions, and their indulgence of fantastical rhetoric.
And ‘the party’ has either a) been fine with all of this or b) unable to do anything about it.
Given that, why would Trump be a surprise?
Bernstein has been hitting Trump hard on his ignorance of how government works (see, for example, here and here, as well as on Twitter), but given that Republicans in Congress don’t seem to care much about governance, is it really a shock that Republican voters would support a guy who doesn’t care either?
So, given that Republicans have been acting like/unable/unwilling to discipline the nutters for awhile, and that Donald Trump is not that much of an outlier in the party, is Trump’s rise indicative of a breakdown of the-party-decides model—because the party itself has broken down in some significant way—or, perhaps, that the party has decided he’ll do just fine?