Early in Campaign 2016, the expectations were that Republican voters would again get behind an establishment candidate like former Florida Jeb Bush or Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, while the Democrats would get in line behind Hillary Clinton's coronation march.
TV pundits declared that there was no way that Donald Trump could win the GOP race, that his high early poll numbers would fade like a summer romance. Bernie Sanders was laughed at as a fringe "issue" candidate. But then something expected happened.
On the Republican side, blue-collar whites finally recognized how the GOP establishment had played them for suckers; they weren't going to take it anymore. On the Democratic side, young voters, in particular, recognized how they had been dealt an extremely bad hand, stuck with massive student debt and unappealing job prospects.
So, on the GOP side, disaffected blue-collar whites rallied to Trump's self-financed campaign and to his promises to renegotiate the trade deals and shut down illegal immigration; on the Democratic side, young voters joined Sanders's call for a "political revolution."
The two corrupt establishments were staggered. Yet, whether the populist anti-establishment insurrections can continue moving forward remains in doubt.
On the Democratic side, Clinton's candidacy appears to have been saved because African-American voters know her better than Sanders and associate her with President Barack Obama. They've given her key support, especially in Southern states, but the Michigan result suggests that Clinton may have to delay her long-expected "pivot to the center" a bit longer.
On the Republican side, Trump's brash style has driven many establishment favorites out of the race and has put Rubio on the ropes. If Rubio is knocked out -- and if Ohio Gov. John Kasich remains an also-ran -- then the establishment's only alternative would be Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a thoroughly disliked figure in the U.S. Senate. It's become increasingly plausible that Trump could win the Republican nomination.
What a Trump victory would mean for the Republican Party is hard to assess. Is it even possible for the GOP establishment with its laissez-faire orthodoxy of tax cuts for the rich and trickle-down economics for everyone else to reconcile with Trump's populist agenda of protecting Social Security and demanding revamped trade deals to restore American manufacturing?
Further, what would the neocons do? They now control the Republican Party's foreign policy apparatus, which is tied to unconditional support for Israel and interventionism against Israel's perceived enemies, from Syria's Bashar al-Assad, to Iran, to Vladimir Putin's Russia. Would they join Kagan in backing Hillary Clinton and trusting that she would be a reliable vessel for neocon desires?
And, if Clinton prevails against Sanders and does become the neocon "vessel," where might the growing ranks of Democratic and Independent non-interventionists go? Will some side with Trump despite his ugly remarks about Mexicans and Muslims? Or will they reject both major parties, either voting for a third party or staying home?
Whatever happens, Official Washington's twin corrupt establishments have been dealt an unexpected and potentially lasting punch.