I have a strong recollection of the Democrat primary candidates of 2008. It was the first presidential election in which I voted, though why the Democrats would stand out in my memory, I have no idea.
But since 1992, it seems like the Democrat field has never been as crowded. Of the three elections since then in which the Democrats haven’t run an incumbent, the number of candidates with non-trivial delegate counts or vote totals have been:
2000: 2 (Gore, Bradley)
2004: 4 (Kerry, Edwards, Dean, and Clark (barely))
2008: 2 (Obama and Hillary)
The Republicans, in contrast, run more candidates:
1996: 5 (Dole, Buchanan, Forbes, Alexander, and Keyes
2000: 3 (Bush McCain, Keyes))
2008: 4 (McCain, Romney, Huckabee, and Paul)
2012: 4 (Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, Paul)
Which brings us to 2016. The Democrats have two declared candidates (Clinton and Sanders), one undeclared candidate (O’Malley), and one rumored to be testing the waters (Biden). Meanwhile, the Republicans have some 15 candidates serious enough to participate in one of the Fox debates.
Granted, Clinton’s candidacy makes 2016 something of an outlier even in the context of the trend I’m describing: she has the Wall Street money, the Democrat core is generally happy with her and the party’s brand of cultural Marxism, and other politicians seem afraid of her. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine Biden even considering a challenge but for the scandal of her ongoing criminality.
Likewise, Trump has exaggerated something of the opposite effect on the Republican side. As any number of commentators have pointed out, there is deep dissatisfaction among the Republican base with what the party has become, and while Trump has successfully appealed to that dissatisfaction, a lot of his rivals are counting on his candidacy to collapse under the weight of his own . . . Trumpishness.
But the trend was already established, and I don’t fully understand why this should be so. Is there anything structural about the nominating procedures that encourage competition on the Republican side while discouraging it on the Democrat side? Or is it just a function of the Clinton syndicate?