But the fault also lay with the project’s essential theory of what kind of third party contender disillusioned voters are pining to elect. From the (inarguable) premise that the public is wearied by the failures of the political and economic establishment, it leaped to the (preposterous) conclusion that the country is crying out for a presidential candidate who mostly represents the interests and values of exactly that same establishment.

The founders of Americans Elect, like the Unity ‘08ers before them, clearly pined for a candidate in the mold of New York’s billionaire mayor: A center-left technocrat, more hawkish on deficits and pro-business than the average Democrat, but more socially liberal and less taxophobic than the average Republican. Such a candidate’s platform would presumably amalgamate various unsuccessful bipartisan forays from the last ten years: The Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction plan, comprehensive immigration reform and tax reform, the cap-and-trade program that John McCain once backed and then abandoned, and so on.

Some of these ideas are good ones; some are not. But all of them have much more purchase among elites and insiders and power brokers in the Wall Street-Washington corridor than they do among the kinds of disaffected voters who usually propel third party campaigns, and give them their populist, anti-establishment edge.