For John, BLUF: This is a good primer. Nothing to see here; just move along.
One of the weirder things about the current Presidential campaign is the outrage shown—you might almost say the umbrage taken—over party rules perceived as anti-democratic or unfair. This cuts in both directions. Bernie Sanders supporters are outraged by the presence of superdelegates, usually darkly described as party bosses, presumably complete with well-chewed cigars and derby hats and jobs for the boys, instead of the weary, long-serving, middle-ranking legislators they mostly are. Why do they get to vote? At the same time, Hillary-ites are outraged that a handful of quixotic caucus-goers get an outsize voice against actual hardworking voters. Meanwhile, Donald Trump is outraged to find that any rules exist at all that require his close attention—that he must, so to speak, read the rules on the inside of the game box in order to win. Bernie merely grumbles, while Trump threatens not to threaten violence. (New York values, indeed: Nice little convention you have here; be a shame if anything happens to it.) Both arguments show a poor understanding of what a party is.Aside from the snarky comments about Mr Trump, and the outright distortion of who is bring violence to the campaign trail, this isn't a bad article.
A political party is not an institution of democratic government. A political party is an instrument of democratic government. An institution of democracy has an obligation to be democratic. But an instrument of democracy can take whatever form it wants. Lobbyists, pressure groups, and the free press—a political party is more like any of these than it is like a branch of government. We can form a political party whose sole end is to promote the candidacy of Lyndon LaRouche or Captain Kangaroo or whomever we want, just as we can run a newspaper that makes comically ill-reasoned endorsements of obviously unfit candidates. No one might join the party, as no one might read the paper. But a political party it would be. Parties make up their own rules to suit themselves, as papers may choose their candidates to please their publisher. Generally, the way we choose convention delegates has become more democratic in recent years, but, in the wake of several lopsided losses, the Democratic Party decided that it ought to have adult supervision in place at its conventions, and that some people who had given their working lives to the Party should be part of it. This may be a very bad idea, and it would be easy for Democrats to change it: they would just have to vote for new rules. But the existence of these rules is not in any sense unfair or undemocratic. It is just part of what it means to have a political party. Similarly, Ted Cruz is not cheating by figuring out how to get more delegates than the raw vote might indicate he deserves. Donald Trump, Jr., what with his father losing all of Colorado’s delegates to Cruz, said that he thought the United States was starting to feel like Communist China. But pluralities, majorities, ballots, and delegates—parties can make up their own rules about such things as they please. And politicians who are smart enough to rule learn the rules before they play the game.
Regards — Cliff