Most folks, most of the time, are content to allow elites to manage their governments. They reserve only the power to decided, from time to time, which group of suits gets to put their hands on the levers. When the voters begin to express an anti-establishment sentiment, it is a sure sign that the managers are failing at their tasks.
This is what has happened in Europe. The election of Francois Hollande in France and the failure of Greek parties to form a government are cases in point. The project of European Union was executed with consistent contempt for the voters. That didn't kill it as long as the scheme held together. Now that it is falling apart, Europe's elites have lost control of their peoples.
The United States has always been more democratic, which is to say more responsive to the electorate, than its European counterparts. The same trend, however, is evident here.
In West Virginia, Keith Judd, an inmate serving 210 months for extortion in Texas, won 40% of the vote in the state's Democratic Presidential Primary. Barack Obama won the remaining 60%. It is easy to say that this doesn't matter and that it is a protest vote that reflects local conditions. President Obama doesn't like coal, and a lot of West Virginians don't like that.
Now, however, the same thing seems likely to play out in Arkansas. From the Weekly Standard:
A new poll of Arkansas Democrats shows Barack Obama receiving support from only 45 percent of Democratic primary voters in Arkansas's Fourth Congressional District, while 38 percent support his underfunded and relatively unknown primary challenger, Tennessee lawyer John Wolfe, Jr. Seventeen percent are undecided in the district poll.
Nebraska state Sen. Deb Fischer wrested the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate from Attorney General Jon Bruning Tuesday night, riding a burst of late momentum to pull off an unexpected victory.
Her stunning come-from-behind performance amounts to a warning flare about the volatility of the primary season and the unintended impact of outside groups.
Fischer, a rancher and little-known state lawmaker, maintained a positive, above-the-fray tone while Bruning and state Treasurer Don Stenberg consistently traded blistering barbs. But she also benefited from a flurry of outside spending against Bruning, the front-running establishment favorite for more than a year who watched his polling lead evaporate during the final week of the campaign.
The Politico tries to blunt the impact of its own story by using the word "volatility", as if this were about something like the weather, and by bringing in the issue of outside money. Horse feathers. If the money made a difference, it was only because there was a difference to make. What stands out in this story is not volatility but a steady headwind. The people are mad as Hell and they aren't going to take it anymore.
Republicans may or may not benefit from these populist currents. If they do, they will have to figure out in short order how to address the public angst. There is a widespread loss of confidence in our fundamental institutions. If that is not corrected, soon, the next crisis will be a lot more interesting. Trust this political scientist on one thing: in politics, interesting is usually directly proportional to terrifying.