Political scientist Julia Azari has written the single most important sentence for understanding both Trump’s rise and this dangerous era in American politics: “The defining characteristic of our moment is that parties are weak while partisanship is strong.”Another way to put it would be that Trump won the nomination while garnering 13.6 million votes, less than a tenth of the electorate. But if this had been a bad year for the Democrats – stock market crash, recession, military disaster – that would almost certainly translate into the presidency.
Here is the problem, in short: Parties, and particularly the Republican Party, can no longer control whom they nominate. But once they nominate someone — once they nominate anyone — that person is guaranteed the support of both the party’s elites and its voters.
I am not as worried about this as Klein, because I think a Trump presidency would more likely be a train wreck of embarrassment than the prelude to dictatorship, but it is something worth pondering.