So much political analysis is shaped in the echo chambers of Washington and New York, and while it may be conventional it frequently lacks wisdom. Just think about how many times you’ve heard well-regarded analysts proclaim with certainty that something was impossible, only to see it materialize a few months later. Donald Trump? He’ll fade by August. Well, certainly by September. There’s no way he can survive after insulting John McCain. Or Fox News. He’ll be gone by December. Just wait until actual voters go to the polls in February . . .
There’s a good reason for this. In order to navigate the complexities of the political process you need a frame of reference, like a prior event that helps make sense of it all. Four years ago, the Republican contest was defined by a series of candidates with little experience or marginal qualifications who took turns emerging as frontrunners before disappearing quickly. Remember Herman Cain? Because Trump fit the profile, he was initially regarded as a vanity candidate who would have his hour upon the stage and then be heard no more. But what if the 2016 contest isn’t fundamentally like 2012? What if the Republican electorate has changed in significant ways that appeal to Trump supporters? Then the analysis won’t hold up. And it didn’t.
Much political analysis relies on a journalistic frame of reference centering on idiosyncratic personalities and events. You can understand a lot with this model during periods of political stability when deviations from political orthodoxy are rare. At Wolves and Sheep, we don’t believe we’re living in such a time. So we apply a different frame of reference that treats individuals, events, even entire elections as elements of an interrelated system, and try to understand them in the context of the political moment. Our point of reference is the last time we experienced severe political and social dislocation, in the 1960s, when the Democratic Party’s New Deal coalition was fraying and movement conservatism was pushing the Republican Party to the right. There are many nontrivial parallels between that moment and today’s politics, as the once-dominant Reagan regime finds itself challenged from within by a radicalized base and from without by rapidly changing demography.
This model of regime decline, decay and renewal is explained in detail in my upcoming book Next Generation Netroots, which will be available in the spring. More on that soon. For now, welcome to the blog and buckle up. We live in interesting times.