A political party is a special kind of party. Instead of a birthday, what a political party celebrates is members' own beliefs, written down in a document called the party platform or manifesto. Instead of a cake with candles, the political party has bunting in the nation's colors, or flowers worn on the lapel that are just as fake as the wearer. And instead of wishing that the person-of-honor have another successful year, the political party hopes that it will be able to impose the person-of-honor, and his benighted beliefs, on everyone else in the nation.
This party is always celebrated on "Election Day," but the party may have additional parties throughout the year, and schedule festivities with rules and words and gossip and strife even in the dreaded "off-years." In this sense, it is, uniquely, a party that never ends, even after the booze runs out.
Election Day is the largest and most important celebration of the political party, as this is the day when voters decide which party will be allowed to party at the taxpayer's expense. Accordingly, candidates never appear in person on Election Day. They slink to the polls and vote — "for my opponent, of course, as a matter of courtesy" — and then spend the rest of the day with their pollsters watching themselves on television.
Conventions are the party's lesser parties, but they play an important role nonetheless. During a convention, the political party nominates a candidate to represent it at all celebrations until the big one.
The convention is also where a political party bickers over what its "values" are. This is a much bigger deal than Pin The Tail On The Donkey at comparable parties.
On Election Day, voters may decide the nominee is unsuitable to host further party celebrations. In that case, the political party falls back on a State Committee or National Committee to organize future parties — and of course to the legislature, where they and their "opponent" push through laws specifying ballot-access rules that keep any newcomer from taking their place.
If voters deem the nominee suitable to host celebrations of their political party, the nominee will be seen at conventions, the campaign trail, and other party celebratons. This is the only type of celebration in which it is a plus that the venue is stuffy and the food is hard to digest.
Long before Election Day, a party's Central Committee, as well as rank-and-file members, ponder whom next to nominate. The nominee is the person they will spend the campaign season convincing voters is credible and competent, even though he does not know where Uzbekistan is or how many "Bekis" it has, frequently misspells words in Basic English, can't be arsed to wear a tie and thinks a flag lapel pin is a cliché, and sometimes gets the count of U.S. states wrong. If he also misstates the ages of his children, the opposition can claim the children are bastards, and he hates them and probably hates all children. Otherwise, the opposition does the only thing possible: stands up a series of college interns to claim he raped them.
Of course, the party has several promising up-and-comers who might make good candidates. The blood sport with which the party selects one of them is caled a primary. This is an election, a sort of dry run of the final election against the other parties. Except that the primary candidates strain to avoid saying anything really bad about their opponents. (In the case of the U.S. Republican Party, this is not much of a difference at all.) Candidates leave it to their "opposition research teams" to sift through the garbage of the opponents.
An entertaining sideshow during the primary season is for the leading candidate to not just show he is a "big-tent" leader but orchestrate rules changes that silence the other candidates. This makes it seem as though there were no primary and no opponents at all. Voters who supported the other candidates then elect to spend Election Day on knitting or television; as the party spends its next four years in the wilderness analyzing how, although the really awful President was re-elected with fewer votes than the first election, their own vote count fell by millions more. The wilderness is not so bad when you can watch the party eat its own babies.
The Campaign Trail
People who aspire to host the major celebrations of their respective political parties demonstrate their skills in minor celebrations all over the country. Remnants of these celebrations remain until Election Day thanks to campaign leaflets, banners, and gift bags emblazoned with the face, name, and/or logo of the candidate.
Voters collect these, like signatures of athletes, not out of affection nor desire to study poor penmanship, but out of dreams of a quick profit on eBay.
All political parties claim to be opposed to cheap foreign merchandise, but all use it for campaign paraphernalia. One of the few joys of the Obama presidency was to see that all the "Endless War!" bumper stickers, distributed in the middle of his predecessor's administration, remained immune to removal from his supporters' cars (and equally apt) in the middle of his own administration.
Many people love to celebrate as members of their respective political parties, but others see these celebrations as a waste of time and money.
Watchdogs point to the tens of millions of dollars spent organizing and supplying celebrations. This, watchdogs caluculate, is money and time that could be spent promoting values, the very things political parties celebrate as part of their platforms.
Others doubt the celebrations of party platforms have any real impact on the country as a whole due to rampant fraud in the system. According to these cynics, political parties would be outlawed if they really did anything good for the average citizen.