Even this is misleading. As Elaine Kamarck of the Brookings Institution has observed, America is the only advanced democracy that has decided to strip its political parties of the power to select their own candidates. Until 1972 -- through conventions, smoke-filled rooms, etc. -- the parties, not the voters, determined who their presidential candidates would be. This function is among the informal checks and balances that make democracy workable around the globe; we scrapped it in favor of ever more open primaries.