In the scramble to make sense out of this week's primaries, a sidebar shows how far and how fast American politics has gone downhill in two years.
To keep the Republican nomination for a Senate seat he has held forever in Arizona, John McCain, who won nearly 60 million votes for president in 2008, had to spend $20 million, move far rightward on issues such as immigration and call in the help of Sarah Palin, the running mate he had plucked out of obscurity back then.
In Alaska, Palin, now the Tea Party kingmaker, did some plucking out of obscurity on her own by backing a totally unknown lawyer against Sen. Lisa Murkowski, hereditary holder of the seat, pulling off what Palin tweets as "a miracle on ice" unless absentee ballots take away Joe Miller's lead.
We are now in the era of disposable national politicians, to be created and used up like Kleenex (see Alvin Greene, the South Carolina Democratic candidate for Senate, an unknown self-financed veteran under indictment for showing pornography to a teenager or Republican Linda McMahon in Connecticut, experienced only in promoting wrestling "matches" with a predetermined result).
Democrats are so terrified of voter rage that they are running for reelection in disguise. See Robin Carnahan in Missouri calling "her opponent 'the very worst of Washington' for supporting the same financial services bailout that President Obama and most of the Democrats in Congress backed" and calling for extension of the Bush tax cuts.
But it is the Alaska-Arizona axis that outdoes all the other political freak shows this summer, underlining the rapid reversal of fortune that has overtaken the 2008 Republican running mates.
Barack Obama reached the White House promising change, but this is far from what he had in mind.