What really happened to Americans Elect?

posted at 3:01 pm on May 19, 2012 by Jazz Shaw

Earlier this week, Ed penned a short and perhaps a bit unkind obituary for Americans Elect, the failed attempt to draft a third party ticket to run against Obama and Romney. Pundits across the spectrum were lining up to toss either roses or dirt on the grave before the body had even reached room temperature. But one portion of Ed’s analysis has been sticking in my craw for a while now:

The people behind this effort somehow believed that they represented voters better than voters represent themselves through party registration, and like a lot of elites, thought that they could handpick voter choices better than the voters.

I’m sorry, but to me that seems like a vast oversimplification at best or missing the point at worst. Yes, Americans Elect failed, and I also thought it was doomed from the start, but for very different reasons. Ed’s explanation makes the assumption that the two party system we have now remains in control primarily because people look over their options and find one of the two clubs to be the best one to join. But that ignores the fact that near record numbers of people indicate that they’re open to a third party option and the numbers of registered independents is on the rise as the market share of both Democrats and Republicans has slipped.

No, I would argue that the failure of AE to catch fire and grab a seat at the table was not that so many Americans are in love with the current duopoly which runs the show now. It was that AE simply failed to take into account one of the primary facts of life in American politics. People don’t fall in love with or build huge grassroots movements behind a PowerPoint presentation on how to build a third party. We get fired up about a person, provided they are perceived as being sufficiently smart, successful, charismatic and chock full of the leadership qualities we’re seeking.

At OTB, Doug Mataconis notes that AE incorrectly tried to follow a Field of Dreams model: if they built it, the voters would come and they could worry about the pesky details of who their candidate would be later.

From the beginning, Americans Elect was designed to appeal not to the disaffected middle of American politics, which very well could be the source of a viable third-party movement (or, a movement that reforms to two major political parties), but to Thomas Friedman and his fellow residents of the Acela Corridor who have been pining for a candidate like Michael Bloomberg for four years now. In the end, though, as an Americans Elect “draftee” Bloomberg got less support than Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, Senator Bernie Sanders, and President Obama, and only a few hundred more than Libertarian Party Presidential Nominee Gary Johnson. That seems to be a fairly good indication that the even the small amount of people participating in the Americans Elect process didn’t have much a desire for an Americans Elect-type candidate.

There may come a day where a third-party candidate will come out of the wilderness, catch fire, and remake the American political scene. If it happens, though, it won’t be a candidate imposed from above by elites, or selected through the kind of convoluted nomination process that Americans Elect put together. So, if they’re pretending that they can come back and try this again in 2016, the Americans Elect people are kidding themselves.

Lack of an exciting candidate to rally behind was certainly one large part of the failure of AE, but as I was pointing out last summer, even if this had worked and produced a viable candidate this year, it would only work once. And that’s because it’s not an actual grassroots system built upon people in town halls and public meetings around the country. It’s an internet gimmick, and those are far too easy for the clever to swarm or derail. The minute it became obvious that AE was able to put someone on the ballot in all fifty states and provide them with enough money to be a threat, the Republicans and Democrats would made sure that their people were sucking all the air out of that room during the following election cycle.

Because in the end, as Doug also noted, the D’s and the R’s are still, “the only game in town” when it comes to the money and infrastructure needed to mount this type of endeavor. It’s not that the two parties are somehow incredibly popular and persuasive. It’s just that for the vast number of people who lean more toward the middle on either side, they simply don’t see any other options viable enough to invest their time and money in.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Americans Elect was a machination of the ‘obama 2012′ campaign – nothing more.

Pork-Chop on May 19, 2012 at 3:07 PM

We get fired up about a person, provided they are perceived as being sufficiently smart, successful, charismatic and chock full of the leadership qualities we’re seeking.

Actually, Jazz, you also got it wrong.

People get fired up about those who they think share the same principles as they do and who will seek to implement those principles in public policy.

Americans Elect failed because by definition the effort had no principles. It was a third party effort for its own sake, with no driving issue or vision. It was created that way by design, and was doomed to fail from the start because of it.

Stoic Patriot on May 19, 2012 at 3:13 PM

I disagree. The two party system exists because of how states allocate their electors. If states went to a system such as what Pennsylvania proposed, things would be much different.

If each state allocated 2 electors to whoever carries the popular vote of the state (representing the two at large Senate seats for the state) and allocated each additional elector according to the winner in each House district, we would have third party candidates that actually accumulate electoral votes *AND* the electoral vote count would more accurately reflect the popular vote making it less likely for a candidate to win the electoral vote but lose the popular vote.

As long as states have a “winner take all” approach to electoral votes, there will never be a viable third party at the Presidential level.

Now, at OTHER levels of government we certainly DO have room for additional parties. Any potential third party needs to first start with local and state elections. In fact, the national organization should not run a candidate for President until they have enough of a Congressional delegation to be a factor. For example, say you have 45 Republicans, 45 Democrats, and 10 Senators from some third party in the Senate. The party that forms the coalition with the third party gets to run the show and the third party gets to have influence on that party. THEN would be the time to run a Presidential candidate from that party.

Simply reforming the electoral vote system can be done at the state level and I support doing it. Not so much to enable third parties, but to stop the disenfranchising we currently see of rural populations by metro areas. If you look at an election map of California, for example, LA and the San Francisco Bay area carry the entire state but major portions of the state are Republican leaning. Those people don’t get represented in their say for President. Same with stats like Illinois where Chicago swamps the voices of millions of Republicans. We should go to a system like that which Pennsylvania proposed.

crosspatch on May 19, 2012 at 3:16 PM

Americans Elect was a machination of the ‘obama 2012′ campaign – nothing more.

Pork-Chop on May 19, 2012 at 3:07 PM

Yeah, an attempt to create another Ross Perot.

crosspatch on May 19, 2012 at 3:16 PM

We really screwed this up. We should have had a Hot Air candidate. Looking at the vote totals of other candidates at Americans Elect, I’m pretty sure we could have easily nominated a Hot Air commenter. Next time…

dczombie on May 19, 2012 at 3:22 PM

Coffee Party, No Labels…I used to be able to rattle off the full list to date whenever a new one popped up, but I’m a little sauced.

HitNRun on May 19, 2012 at 3:32 PM

they asked Sarah and she didn’t bite.

renalin on May 19, 2012 at 3:33 PM

We really screwed this up. We should have had a Hot Air candidate. Looking at the vote totals of other candidates at Americans Elect, I’m pretty sure we could have easily nominated a Hot Air commenter. Next time…

dczombie on May 19, 2012 at 3:22 PM

would Ed have run … and if elected would he have served ….

conservative tarheel on May 19, 2012 at 3:34 PM

There are two choices: socialism or capitalism.

Most parliamentary (europe, canada, australia and new zealand) democracies only have socialist parties. In the US there is still a choice.

Harper in Canada may not be socialist but much of his party is at best progressive.

gh on May 19, 2012 at 3:49 PM

Does anyone have a link to the memo/letter that states if the raid failes on osama, the sec rof the navy gets the blame? I heard it on Hannity and several others, but I’m being questioned for the link. Anyone?

Bambi on May 19, 2012 at 3:50 PM

i agree this was mostly a pro-Obama exercise. The ‘third-way’ people know that many of the constituency groups of the Dim party are well served by them…two types 1. I vote for you and you give me OPM and 2. I vote for you and you give me the pride of the eco-freak, the social lib, etc.

Those groups are not for sale. And they constitute 40 percent of the US population.

so you can do the math…and they can to.

Fortunately the voters can too.

r keller on May 19, 2012 at 4:01 PM

if you stand for nothing then you attract no one.

because americans elect was all about process, and not about deeply help values and principles that truly shape our civic lives they attracted no one.

reliapundit on May 19, 2012 at 4:03 PM

It was a third party without a theme. America could very well have a third party and it should not be ruled out. There is widespread dissatisfaction with both parties these days and general disinterest as evidenced by the low turnout. South Park’s portrayal of the choice today is pretty accurate.

lexhamfox on May 19, 2012 at 4:05 PM

@Bambi – here is a link to the story at The Blaze – maybe this will help you.

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/former-attorney-general-mukasey-highly-lawyered-memo-would-have-blamed-failed-ubl-raid-on-navy-admiral/

Pork-Chop on May 19, 2012 at 4:06 PM

I’m pretty sure we could have easily nominated a Hot Air commenter. Next time…

dczombie on May 19, 2012 at 3:22 PM

..angryed?

The War Planner on May 19, 2012 at 4:07 PM

Americans Elect was a machination of the ‘obama 2012′ campaign – nothing more.

Pork-Chop on May 19, 2012 at 3:07 PM

This.

But then, you already knew that, dincha?

bofh on May 19, 2012 at 4:31 PM

I thought ‘Americans Elect’ was Chinese viagra.

mrt721 on May 19, 2012 at 4:38 PM

….Julia?

KOOLAID2 on May 19, 2012 at 4:47 PM

Why do the elites in NYC keep bringing up BLOOMBERG’S name as a viable candidate that anyone would vote for outside of the hallowed halls of NYC?

For cripes sake, the rest of america does NOT want a nanny state elitist telling us what we can eat and how much salt was can have in the food we order in a restaurant. Criminy, why do you peeps in NYC put up with that crap?

karenhasfreedom on May 19, 2012 at 4:49 PM

We get fired up about a person

Or “persons” to be more precise.

A-freakin’-men

I have been arguing this for years now about any third party movement. But you need not only one big name, you need several… and they need to be people with a political following (severall hollywood stars won’t work). The Republican Party was created by the coming together of a number of nationally-known names.

Third parties have used big names at the top of their tickets over the years (from Bull Moose to Progressive to Reform) only to fail. You gotta have a group.

mankai on May 19, 2012 at 4:52 PM

Americans Elect failed because it tried to become the middle way between the hard left (democRats) and the squishy center (Republicans). In my opinion, the rise of the tea party shows a desire among the people for what would be considered a more conservative party, at least as regards the federal government and its role in our lives.

arik1969 on May 19, 2012 at 4:57 PM

If Jazz Shaw doesn’t like something — that something is obviously the correct choice.

FlatFoot on May 19, 2012 at 5:15 PM

Anytime you hear about a 3rd Party effort, just know it’s likely some Leftist group attempting to split up the conservative vote.

Democrats certainly aren’t going to jump ship, they’re more a collection of pay to play interest groups than some ideological movement. The politician with a (D) after their name is what keeps them from being homeless, so they’ll stay loyal and always pull the lever as long as the checks keep coming.

Conservatives, however, don’t fall in line quite as easily because we don’t depend on a political party for our livelihood. It’s both a strength and a weakness. It’s a big weakness though when it comes quixotic bids for office.

BradTank on May 19, 2012 at 5:15 PM

……near record numbers of people indicate that they’re open to a third party option and the numbers of registered independents is on the rise……

The reason that Americans Elect failed, IMO, is because the movers and shakers for the new party represented not Independents, but Moderates. Center Right/Center Left folks who historically have a difficult time taking/making a stand on issues, and are generally the folks who just want people to ‘get along’, and favor compromise on all issues.

A squishy group of people looking for a squishy candidate to run against what they perceive as the ‘extremes’: The Right and The Left, or Conservatives and Liberals.

But it’s awfully hard to find a squishy moderate candidate who at the same time would need to project fire in the belly, charm and charisma, to potentially attract enough Left/Right folks to garner sufficient electoral votes to be a potentially viable option. Add to that the elites who were running the show and creating ground rules too onerous to attract even squishy candidates without fire in the belly, and it’s no wonder the effort imploded without even attracting one non-affiliated potential candidate to be put through the wringer.

No one with an ounce of common sense really took them seriously nor expected the effort to amount to anything worth more than a paragraph somewhere in some obscure local newspapers. But then, this -is- the USA, where anyone with a potentially viable idea can try to turn their dream into a reality. And I’m sure they’ll try again. But they’ll have to scrap it all totally and start fresh with a different perspective and less of a choke hold on controlling the new party’s natural evolutionary process.

KendraWilder on May 19, 2012 at 5:21 PM

KendraWilder on May 19, 2012 at 5:21 PM

Yup. Hard to get excited over a squishy platform.

mankai on May 19, 2012 at 5:24 PM

Americans Elect failed because it was made up of wimpy Democrats and RINOs who are perceived as typical politicians with zero credibility. You think anyone who has seen what New York city has become under Bloomberg would support him for President?

A third party would only have a chance if it was started by figures of change and a rage against the machine message. AE was formed of whiny political expedience and phony bipartisanship.

In an age of a very divided electorate, the last thing people want is to cede half there policy positions in order to support people who have no record of strong core beliefs.

Im glad its predictable end has come.

Wake me up when a real alternative choice to the Washington DC way materializes.

alecj on May 19, 2012 at 5:31 PM

Until a third part sets down it’s principles “100 things we believe” and they find 536 candidates to run in all the congressional elections and the presidency and then another 20+ thousand candidates to put on the ballot for all local elections, a third party will fail.

Top down won’t work.

Candidateless won’t work.

Issueless won’t work.

It’ll be very simple, the first group of people that can articulate a platform that is fiscally responsibile, socially moderate, and has a large number of people to stand up under its banner and push those daily, will a vast number of votes.

Socially moderate is neither evangelical right or secular left.

WashingtonsWake on May 19, 2012 at 5:37 PM

Actually, Jazz, you also got it wrong.

People get fired up about those who they think share the same principles as they do and who will seek to implement those principles in public policy.

Americans Elect failed because by definition the effort had no principles. It was a third party effort for its own sake, with no driving issue or vision. It was created that way by design, and was doomed to fail from the start because of it.

Stoic Patriot on May 19, 2012 at 3:13 PM

Yup.

fitzfong on May 19, 2012 at 6:08 PM

Americans Elect was a machination of the ‘obama 2012′ campaign – nothing more.

Pork-Chop on May 19, 2012 at 3:07 PM

Yeah, an attempt to create another Ross Perot.

crosspatch on May 19, 2012 at 3:16 PM

Mostly a way for Obama to still win in case Mitt lost the GOP nomination thus when Mitt got it no need for Americans Elect. Mitt will easily be beaten because Mitt will not fight to win.

On the larger question though. Most Americans currently hate both parties. Thus the very low congressional ratings. Americans know they have to eat fiber but politicians in both parties do not make them eat it. Thus the spending goes up and up with either party. The Tea Party is an attempt to change this. It is working but will take time. If it wins out the GOP could remain however if the GOP maintains it’s establishment hold it will go the way of the Wig Party.

Why. Well America is blessed of GOD. Thus the two parties are sort of a fight between good and evil. The Democrats have always been on the evil side (Satans plan of forcing people to do “right”). The Republicans were on the side of freedom of choice but under GODs law. The GOP has lost the under GODs law part at least the establishment types. GOD will win out in the end. He will use his unlimited power as quietly as possible to do so but he will use it. This is still a GOD fearing GOD blessed country.

Steveangell on May 19, 2012 at 6:12 PM

The Tea Party IS the third party. They’re taking over the Republican party where they’re most vulnerable, at the primaries. Removing the RINO’s one at a time is a long and arduous task, but the dividends are already paying off. Fear the Tea.

Aardvark on May 19, 2012 at 7:49 PM

Does anyone have a link to the memo/letter that states if the raid failes on osama, the sec rof the navy gets the blame? I heard it on Hannity and several others, but I’m being questioned for the link. Anyone?

Bambi on May 19, 2012 at 3:50 PM

Another one: Bush A.G. Criticizes CIA For Drafting Memo ‘Shifting Blame’ From Obama If Bin Laden Op Failed

Don’t miss this either: Top General: Obama Knew About OBL’s Hideout in Abbottabad Since Summer of 2010 – Refused to Act Until May

slickwillie2001 on May 19, 2012 at 7:50 PM

People don’t fall in love with or build huge grassroots movements behind a PowerPoint presentation on how to build a third party. We get fired up about a person, provided they are perceived as being sufficiently smart, successful, charismatic and chock full of the leadership qualities we’re seeking.

Exactly.

BocaJuniors on May 19, 2012 at 8:06 PM

Americans Elect was a gimmick set up by the Obama campaign to suck votes from the Republicans in order to split the vote and let Obama squeak to victory. It wasn’t complicated. Fortunately, enough people realized the fraudulent nature of the idea and rejected it.

Real reform will come from within. The Tea Party has had the right idea — to work within the established Republican party to replace the old party moderates with principled conservatives who will work together to reform the party itself. A fake third party isn’t a viable alternative, and people saw through it.

The mistake was the ongoing one all the elites make. They thought ordinary Americans were stupid. They aren’t.

hachiban on May 19, 2012 at 10:20 PM

I feel and have seen polls that most people agree with conservative economics but don’t like Republicans on restriction on liberty and freedom. Republican are also big Government, they pander to ” Somethings got to be done about that or this.” one law to fix something causes several other problems or effects more the innocent than those they are trying to curtail. Democrats are much worse by trying to be our Nanny. Free market economics is key and if your not harming anyone it’s none of the governments business. Give back to the States which belongs to the States. Libertarians almost get it but forget about the rights of the unborn and weak on Defense. Drug war will not succeed and Prohibition causes violence.

> Small Government
> Free Market economics
> Balanced Budget ( No Debt)
> Strong Defense ( as deterrent not as world police)
> Liberty and freedom.
> Rights of unborn ( at least after first trimester)

Lets get back to constitution.

Ed Laskie on May 20, 2012 at 10:49 PM