Connecting the Dots

Wolves and Sheep is approaching its one month birthday, and I doubt it could have launched during a more unstable moment in American politics. Much has happened since we started this project on Valentine’s Day, so let’s see if we can connect a few dots to make sense of the national political picture as of Saturday March 12:

  • It’s all about the Supreme Court vacancy. Everything. Republicans face brutal demographic headwinds in national elections but their electoral prospects have been assisted by unrestricted campaign spending, voter ID laws and aggressively drawn federal and state legislative districts. All of these are potentially at risk if a progressive justice fills Scalia’s seat, so . . .
  • Republican congressional leaders are taking an unprecedented hard line against considering any Obama nominee. They feel they can’t risk initiating the confirmation process and hope to run out the clock until we inaugurate the 45th president. This means . . .
  • They have to win the presidential election. Their political advantages are safe if Scalia’s seat is filled by a reliable conservative. Of course, this means . . .
  • They have to nominate a reliable conservative. So they started the year with a deep bench, and as the primary process unfolded it became clear that the party was going to unite around Walker Perry Bush Christie Rubio . . .
  • Trump. The party is uniting around Donald Trump, with Ted Cruz emerging as his biggest challenger. Actually, only about 40% of the party has so far united around Trump, but this has proved sufficient because . . .
  • The Republican Party is really two parties: a traditional conservative party still in search of a leader, and a radicalized reactionary party drawn to Trump’s authoritarian message of dominance and strength. Trump’s emergence, and the escalating violence at his rallies, threatens to strip the party from its conservative moorings and subject it to an electoral catastrophe, so . . .
  • Party leaders, who may not recognize their role in creating this situation, concocted plans to . . .
  • Stop Trump at any cost by propping up the remaining alternatives in a play to deny him an outright convention victory. The problem with this strategy is the end game, in that  . . .
  • There is no end game. A contested convention would be chaotic because there are no brokers. If party elites could somehow engineer a compromise, they will alienate Trump’s supporters who already believe the deck is stacked against them by Republican leadership. And if they can’t stop Trump, they’re stuck with him, unless . . .
  • The conservative establishment temporarily leaves the party and sets up shop elsewhere on the ballot. A move like this is without precedent, would be incredibly difficult to organize and would split the vote and leadership on the right. But the fact that it’s even being floated is evidence that . . .
  • This is not likely to end well for conservative party leaders. Tuesday will prove pivotal for Trump’s march to the Republican nomination, as victories in Ohio and Florida would eliminate Kasich, Rubio and the best chance of stopping Trump at the convention.  Meanwhile . . .
  • On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton continues to hold a strong delegate advantage in a contest dominated by Bernie Sanders’ message about economic inequality, which is resonating with significant portions of the Democratic base but, like movement progressives in general . . .
  • Sanders has yet to build a wide enough coalition to win. However, he has sparked a grassroots movement of unprecedented size, and his unexpected Michigan win could keep him around for a long time, although . . .
  • How long and how prominently will depend on how well he does next in next Tuesday’s Midwest primaries. Success in Ohio and Illinois would show that Michigan was not a fluke and initiate a round of handwringing from Team Hillary, which has been slow to figure out how to lead a party that is increasingly dominated by Bernie’s ideas. So . . .
  • The Democratic Party is moving toward the progressive left even as it edges closer to nominating someone who does not come from that tradition, while . . .
  • The Republican Party is dividing in two, which means . . .
  • The fall election promises to be . . .
  • Different. With that Supreme Court seat hanging in the balance.