In the coming days, journalists will gorge themselves on stories about Jeb’s collapse. But collapse implies that Jeb had much real support to begin with. What he had was money. The media crowned him frontrunner on the assumption that he could turn that money into votes. Republicans, it was assumed, are orderly and hierarchical. Once the party elite gets behind someone—even someone like John McCain or Mitt Romney who grassroots conservatives distrust—the unwashed eventually fall in line.
Not this time. All September, Trump tormented Bush. Now Rubio has flattened him too. On a human level, it’s painful to watch. But structurally, it’s kind of wonderful. Maybe Republican voters are responding to outsiders. Maybe they’re responding to demagogues. Maybe they’re just responding to candidates who put on a good show. But in the process, they are repudiating the elite assumption that the actual primaries are merely an extension of the “invisible primary.” They are insisting that even in the age of Super PACs, money and votes are not the same.
If reaffirming that requires watching Jeb Bush be humiliated by his former protégé as millions of Americans look on, it’s a small price to pay.