Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Americans Elect --- No One!

The new cool 3rd party thing this election cycle was going to be "Americans Elect." The premise behind this organization is that ballot access laws in the 50 states is a key barrier that prevents non mainstream, centrist candidates from competing  in the presidential election.  Americans Elect aimed to remove this burden by gaining ballot access in all 50 states for a candidate, who would be be nominated through an online convention of self-designated "delegates."  Rules were established for candidates that wanted to participate and to determine how the nomination was to be decided.  

But last week Americans Elect announced that the project had failed.  None of the candidates (those who put themselves in the ring or those that the "party" wanted to "draft") met the threshold of national support required to enter the AE National Convention next month.  What does this flop say about the prospect of a third-party?  Or the thirst of the American electorate for an alternative to the mainstream party candidates?  First, voters are realists.  Most voters know that the third party candidates cannot win and can only serve as spoilers.  Those who voted for Ralph Nader in Florida in 2000 know that they inadvertently gave the nation 8 years of George W. Bush.  Second, these movements can't get going without a real name candidate.  Plenty of potential third party centrists like to opine about the failings of the current system -- take a look at Bill Bradley's new book for instance -- but they don't have the appetite to get in the ring and do what it takes to run for office.  And there are good reasons not to -- it is hard to raise money without a party affiliation and apparatus, there are no institutions that serve as a core base to provide ideas, organization, and support, and career prospects in politics or elsewhere can be cut off if you shun your former party and become identified as a fringe figure.  Perhaps the biggest obstacle is that there is no concrete set of ideas that can unify the political center.  The ideas that animate the left and right are well known and clearly defined.  But what ideas unify the political center?  Responsible deficit reduction?  Safe, legal but rare abortions?  Some government regulation but not too much?  I am reminded of what it took to get Senators Ben Nelson and Susan Collins to sign on to the federal stimulus package in 2009.  They thought it needed to be about $100 billion smaller.  Perhaps there was a guiding principle behind this action, but it is hard to articulate and place on a bumper sticker.The lack of any unifying ideology can be seen in the disparate cast of characters that garnered at least some support on the Americans Elect website:  Buddy Roemer, Ron Paul, Bernie Sanders, Steven Colbert, Elizabeth Warren, and John Huntsman -- people from all over the ideological spectrum.  Americans Elect did not galvanize the unrepresented middle -- rather it was attractive (and, as it seems, not all that attractive) mostly to those who were already politically engaged, but not particularly popular.

1 comment:

  1. Here is my explanation for why AE has failed -

    Peter Ackerman - A Traitor to His Class!

    But why doesn't the nation know this?!

    Here is why:
    The PR contractors muddled the AE brand in two big ways. First, they let fear-driven suspicions about a Wall Street trick fester in the public’s mind. They should have had a fast moving, sharp tongued response team. (All they had was a general news magazine sent out by email and called rapid response.)

    Second, by letting Americans think that AE is a “third party” they really screwed up. Americans yawn at the prospect of yet another party on the political scene. Of course, it’s not a “party” at all. It has no policy slate, or issue positions. It’s a PROCESS for holding an online primary w/o the domination of the two-party system elites.

    AE should have been presented as what it is – a bold challenger to the status quo. Instead, the PR people sent out a couple of soft spoken Mr. Nice Guys who didn’t want to offend anyone, but who wanted to be Everyman’s Friend. That’s not the spirit that drives political reform!

    Incompetent PR is the direct cause of the lack of awareness and enthusiasm for AE.

    Next time, AE will have to recover from the PR damage its paid contractors have caused its brand. We will have to make it known that our focus is on Political Reform, and that we are the up-coming challengers to the dominant two-party system. We should NOT present AE as Everyman’s Friend, because we don’t want to be friends with the Established Elites – we want to kick their butts off the political stage!

    Once folks start hearing that message, they will start to pay more attention. So, changing the AE image should be at the top of our long term agenda. (For more,
    http://tinyurl.com/7nruy9p )

    William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.
    Email: Internetvoting@gmail.com
    Blog: http://tinyurl.com/IV4All
    Twitter: wjkno1
    Author: Internet Voting Now!