One under-rated part of the Donald Trump phenomenon is how he seems to be able to flout rules and norms rather aggressively. He skips debates, for example, and still has no trouble winning the nomination. As a result, this has led politicians to start trying to ignore norms, as well, in hopes of being able to pull this type of immunity from rules off. Let's look at two examples of how it is working.
Lauren Boebert has a problem. She won her district (Colorado 3rd) by a thin margin (50.08% to 49.92%) against a strong challenger in a non-presidential year where Republicans tend to do better. Then she had a number of public events that tarnished her image -- such as an incident during a play. That means she'll have less favorable odds and a new scandal to dilute support. Even worse, this opens up room for a primary challenge in her own district. So what does she do? Why not simply switch from a safe Republican district to an even safer one, replacing somebody who is retiring. That way she will benefit from the partisan leanings of the district to overcome these obstacles (and maybe draw a weaker challenger). So how is is going?
She got 12 votes in the poll, according to The Denver Post. Logan County Commissioner Jerry Sonnenberg topped the poll with 22 votes, followed by State Representative Mike Lynch with 20, conservative radio host Deborah Florida with 18 and State Representative Richard Holtorf with 17.
Now maybe she will prevail on name recognition (although that could be a two edged sword) but it isn't an optimistic start among the insiders in her new district. The primary is the real battle here and there are now four people who see beating her as a chance for a long term congressional role.
On the other side of the isle we have Krysten Sinema. Facing a serious primary challenge after she alienated her own party in a high profile way, she switched to independent. No more primary. The democratic party does work with independents (Bernie Sanders and Angus King) so it looked like a smart move. But the trick to being an independent is to be vastly personally popular. It is the same way that Lisa Murkowski managed to survive as an Alaskan senator. Instead, she left the party without a solid well of support, gambling that Democrats would cede the field to prevent a vote split that would give the seat to the GOP.
So how is this going? Well, she is way behind on even getting on the ballot:
The report also revealed Sinema had spent no money on signature-gathering through the end of 2023. To qualify for the ballot as an independent, she needs to get 42,303 valid signatures by April 8, according to Arizona’s secretary of state office ― a task Arizona Democrats think only gets harder by the day.
Her press is focused on her spending and lack of fundraising. Her numbers are rough. To pick a recent poll, we have Gallego (D) 39%, Lake (R) 40%, and Sinema (I) 13%. Obviously there are things that could happen. Perhaps Sinema finds a way to get the Republican nomination? But the odds are very much not in her favor. It's like Nikki Haley versus Donald Trump -- it isn't that victory is impossible but that the path to it is very, very narrow and almost certainly involves a serious lucky break (or, more like 5 or 6 lucky breaks).
Anyway, it remains the case that the Donald Trump story is not a sign that all political rules are gone. Instead it is the much older story that a dedicated political following and a strong base of support allow for greater freedom of action. Without that, all of the rules of political gravity re-emerge.