The extraordinary Republican primary battle has forced me to brood more extensively about the formal structure of the American political system than I have ever done before. I find myself particularly puzzled about how to think about the dispute between Donald Trump and Reince Priebus. [Was it Aristotle or was it Plato who said that shit does not have a form? How can a Trump-Priebus dispute possibly give rise to thoughts worthy of a sentient being?]
As my American readers will know, Trump is arguing that the candidate who gets the most votes and has the most delegates coming into the Convention should be awarded the nomination. The Stop Trump forces are saying that so long as Trump lacks a majority on the first ballot, his claim on the nomination can be nullified by the votes of the freed-up delegates on the second and subsequent ballots. And so on.
Here is what has me puzzled. Political Parties in the United States are, in the eyes of the law, private organizations, not public or even quasi-public entities [I think this is right.] Parties are continuing organizations that exist presumably for the purpose of advancing some determinate political policies or a political vision by electing local, state, and federal representatives who will then use the resources and legal powers of government to implement those policies or that vision. To be sure, American political parties, unlike those in many European or Asian countries, tend to be broad aggregations of regional, racial, religious, economic and other interests, but at any given time, it is possible to identify some core political orientation that characterizes the party.
It seems reasonable therefore that a party should refuse to nominate as its presidential candidate someone who does not at all represent what the party at that time stands for. I mean, suppose Bernie Sanders had announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination and, mirabile dictu had started winning Republican primaries. Would the Republican Party really not have the right to “ignore the will of the voters” and bar him by some arcane rule change from hi-jacking the party? Would the Democratic Party really not have the same right if a bona fide Republican – say Hillary Clinton – were to attempt pull off the same trick on it?
I invite your thoughtful responses.