There was a confrontation at the recent CNN Republican debate that perfectly encapsulates the early mood and tone of this strange election season. Two CEOs, both political neophytes, were arguing about which of them had the best and most relevant experience while a bunch of governors and senators stood there silent and bemused.
I think this is no outlier. We may be in for a nominating process and election like none before. It isn’t just Republicans. Across the political spectrum the rumblings of dissatisfaction with the status quo grow louder by the minute. Polls have long shown that the voting public sees political institutions at the national level as fundamentally broken. But in the past when it comes down to concrete terms in the privacy of the voting booth, voters flinch from the uncertainty of radical change.
Just maybe, this time is different. While this election process unfolds, Congress will predictably play out its customary Punch and Judy show. A government shutdown will be threatened over Planned Parenthood and quite possibly it will happen. The usual show votes will occupy brief working sessions, with neither hope nor expectation that laws will be written. Name calling will replace law making so that the enterprise of government degenerates into a kindergarten dispute. Meanwhile the President will continue to spray federal directives across the landscape, making changes that have received none of the scrutiny upon which our system depends. All of this will be a constant goad toward desperation among even docile voters.
Unprecedented crowds at Trump and Sanders rallies may not translate into votes, and the deluge of coercive political ads has not yet begun. So it is too early to know if this will all blow over. Perhaps everyone will grumpily settle down and nominate the son and brother of Presidents to contest against the wife of another. But even if the old order ultimately prevails this time, I predict that we now glimpse its inevitable demise.