“…parties used to drive media attention by signaling to reporters which candidates to take seriously”

Money turned out to be much less important to winning primaries than anyone thought — just ask Jeb Bush, who spent $130 million only to be humiliated, even as Trump spent almost nothing to win. Moreover, the internet keeps making it easier to fundraise off an energized base — a dynamic that is empowering high-enthusiasm outsider candidates like Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz and weakening party establishments and the big-dollar donors they control.

Similarly, parties used to drive media attention by signaling to reporters which candidates to take seriously. But that process, too, has been democratized — social media makes it easy to communicate with supporters directly and made it more valuable for audience-hungry media outlets to cover the candidates with intense fan bases that send stories viral across Facebook or Reddit. That, again, favors exciting outsiders with enthusiastic supporters over vetted establishment grinds.

But the primary resource party officials have when influencing primary elections is the trust of voters. That’s why endorsements are important, and have traditionally been predictive of the eventual winner: They represent party officials using the credibility they have built with their voters to persuade them of whom to vote for.

Trump didn’t have any Republican endorsements to speak of until he had already won a slew of primaries. But the void of official support arguably helping him — it was proof that he really was untouched and untainted by the unpopular GOP establishment. This represented the Republican Party failing at the most basic job of a political party: Helping its voters make good decisions. The GOP’s elites have so totally lost the faith of their base that their efforts to persuade Republican voters were ignored at best and counterproductive at worst.

But this also presents a puzzle: If partisans have lost so much faith in their party establishments, then why are they so much likelier to back whomever their party nominates? The answer, in short, is fear and loathing of the other party.

Ezra Klein, “Donald Trump’s success reveals a frightening weakness in American democracy”, Vox (7 November 2016) [http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/7/13532178/donald-trump-american-democracy-weakness]