Collusion, Competition, Republicans and Democrats

Chidem Kurdas

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Donald Trump accused his two remaining opponents of collusion to cheat him out of delegates in the Republican Party presidential primary.

It was a misleading and unfair assertion, but Mr. Trump started a media narrative with that term, obviously to his advantage.

In markets, consumers lose if suppliers collude to fix prices. In politics, agreements to act in concert have no such effect and are frequently beneficial, oiling the workings of democracy. After all, political parties are wide-ranging long-term alliances. These organizations function as useful mechanisms in electioneering.

But when complicity becomes all pervasive and the governing class forms almost a single entity, say under a Vladimir Putin, then democracy is no longer the operative word. In Russia, candidates who appear to compete in an election are often just following a Kremlin script with a predetermined winner. Elections are not really free since there is little choice and the people’s self-rule is reduced to a charade.

The primary for the 2016 U.S. presidential election has been fiercely contentious on the Republican side, starting with some 17 candidates, most of them serious contenders. Even now with Mr. Trump far ahead in the delegate count, his leading rival Ted Cruz continues to pursue the prize.

It is remarkable that Mr. Trump made the charge of collusion in so highly competitive a race, which he is close to winning. It’s the competition he wants to end, demanding that Mr. Cruz quit the campaign.

The issue of collusion would seem more fittingly raised for the other party. The Democratic establishment came together to powerfully back Hillary Clinton from the get go. That her chief opponent is Bernie Sanders, a 75-year-old socialist who wanted to publicize his cause, suggests that potential candidates were discouraged from entering the race.

The party establishment put up an entry barrier by backing Ms. Clinton. It was obvious that competing with her was like throwing yourself against a massive door, closed and bolted.

So the Democratic primary was a less competitive, more Putinesque affair. Punditry and the social media are full of admiring comments on this tight establishment control—the party nominating process as a door that will open only to the already chosen.

In this topsy-turvy season the party named democratic has less of the real thing, except for the strong, spontaneous grassroots support for Mr. Sanders. Young feel-the-Bern enthusiasts propelled him further than perhaps even he expected to go. Apparently they had not realized that they were scripted to swear fealty to the Clinton cause after a brief contest. Opponents were discouraged from showing up her weakness—Mr. Sanders once called her unqualified but quickly took it back. His followers are expected to learn their lesson and fall in line behind the anointed candidate.

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