The Party’s Lost Grip on Deciding

If this keeps up, Vox could find itself barred from next year’s APSA conference.

Last week Andrew Prokop wrote a good brief empirical argument for why the verities of The Party Decides aren’t looking so authoritative this cycle.

Now comes Ezra Klein with a column offering a more definitive (if carefully hedged) take on why the political science vision of party elites confidently controlling their presidential nominations–or for that matter, the U.S. House of Representatives–might be obsolete. To simplify Ezra’s case, it was the power party elites had over fundraising and media perceptions that gave them the power over nominations. Now that the media landscape is so varied, and the fundraising is no longer strictly a matter of bundlers tapping the same old sources, it’s no wonder things are slipping more than a bit, right?

All this has created a climate that’s friendlier than it’s ever been to politicians who can command a camera or dominate a televised debate or send their speeches viral, and that’s more hostile than usual to candidates or policymakers who know how to work their caucus but can’t work a crowd.

It makes sense, alongside other factors like the pent-up rage of activists (mostly though hardly exclusively in the GOP) who feel they’ve been lied to by party elites for many years. But Ezra began his whole exposition by noting that nobody predicted all of this year’s political surprises. So we should all just accept for the time being that there’s a significant element of the unknown operating here. Once you get used to that idea, it’s kinda fun, in an OMG TRUMP COULD WIN kinda way.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.