But on balance America has never had party leaders in the way that is natural in parliamentary systems. And in recent years, with nominees usually having little organic connection to party infrastructure or deep base of support, the pattern has become even more merciless and total.
Michael Dukakis is perhaps the most glaring example since he had so little national profile to return to and was viewed as such a poor candidate. But something similar, if less extreme, can be said of John Kerry and Walter Mondale and Bob Dole and John McCain.
But I think we may be in even new territory with Mitt Romney's shuffle off the national stage. It's not too much to say that Romney is now uniting the country across party lines that he's someone who should leave as soon as possible and not say anything publicly again. Actually scratch that. Democrats are starting to think that having Romney around and continuing to dump on a broad range of Americans might be pretty awesome.
More seriously, it goes without saying that Romney was never more than a tolerated transplant among professional conservatives. His bonafides were doubted. We know all this. So it's ironic that Republicans are uniting in calls to get off the national stage once and for all precisely because he's continuing to make the kind of makers-and-takers type statements you might hear on a particularly feral and untethered rightwing blog.
It's an amazing denouement. It puts the whole race in a new, if not surprising, perspective.