It is hilarious when people complain about some aspect of the primary elections as being “undemocratic” or unfair, for a number of reasons. First of all, people complain only when some obscure detail of the primary process works against them (or their favored candidate). Or they just complain when they are losing.
For example, Bernie Sanders and his supporters have complained loudly about the primaries, even claiming that they are rigged against them. But you don’t hear Sanders or his supporters complaining about caucuses, which have been very good to him.
Likewise, Donald Trump complained loud and long about the unfairness of the primaries, until he won. There is plenty of evidence that the Republican primaries are unfair, but Trump actually benefitted from that unfairness. But that didn’t stop him from complaining, and earlier this month he summed up the whole silly game by declaring “You’ve been hearing me say it’s a rigged system, but now I don’t say it anymore because I won. Ok, it’s true. You know, now I don’t care. I don’t care.”
But what is especially hilarious is that the entire institution of political parties is completely undemocratic and unfair. Arguing about details is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The only purpose of political parties is to win elections, and fairness has absolutely nothing to do with it.
We all know this. Every few elections, an aspiring candidate creates a new political party out of thin air and coronates themselves as the nominee of that party. You can’t get much more undemocratic than that! Ross Perot did it more than once, as did Ralph Nader and many others. But do we complain about that? No, because deep down we know that political parties are not fair. George Washington even warned us about them.
And yet we keep tweaking political parties and how they pick their nominees, trying to make them more democratic. Ironically, this usually makes that party lose the election. The current system of superdelegates in the Democratic party was installed for exactly that reason — to ensure that the party’s nominee is electable.
There are solutions to this problem, like the single nonpartisan blanket primary used in Louisiana, California, and other states. But every election year, after the primary is over and the complaining is done, most states just keep using their old “unfair” system.
Don’t just take it from me. John Oliver has a hilarious take on the whole primary and caucus system: