On Monday, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, the Republican presidential front-runner on April Fools' Day, quit the contest. There had been no scandal which disgraced him, no momentous mistake which undermined him. It was simply that he once had support from Republican primary voters; he no longer did.
On Friday, Speaker John Boehner, the only leader most members of the House Republican conference have ever known, announced his resignation from Congress. There had been no scandal which disgraced him, no momentous mistake which undermined him. It was simply that he once had support from his Republican colleagues; he no longer did.
No one predicted at the beginning of the summer that Walker and Boehner would quit by the end of September. No one predicted it on Labor Day. No one predicted it last weekend.
Now, as we earnestly set about explaining what happened, we'll decide that what occurred was pretty much predictable (in hindsight), if not almost inevitable (in retrospect). It is an all-too-human temptation to want to make the world intelligible, even and if only in a rear-view mirror. But in this case the wish risks obscuring the truth.
The truth is this: We were all surprised. We were all surprised because these events were surprises. As was the emergence of Donald Trump. And Ben Carson. And Carly Fiorina. And Bernie Sanders.
These were surprises. There is no reason to assume the surprises will stop. Quite the contrary. The underlying conditions remain the same. The public knows the country is on the wrong track. It believes the political class is incompetent, arrogant, and out of touch. They're unlikely to be proved wrong in the near future. And the combination of all three of these qualities is combustible.
Perhaps normalcy will reassert itself. Perhaps there will be no government shutdown. Perhaps Kevin McCarthy will become speaker and will be able to control his troops. Perhaps Joe Biden won't run, and Hillary Clinton will beat back Bernie as other favorites have beaten back other upstarts. Perhaps the GOP finalists will be, as they normally would be, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Perhaps we'll have a normal general election that will look like recent ones.
Or perhaps we'll have more weeks like the last one, a political season full of surprises, and an election cycle unlike any we've seen in quite a while.