UnParty wannabe fails to pick candidate

OK, so maybe that’s a bit snide. After all, the real UnParty hasn’t even tried to pick a candidate — for anything, much less president. At least Americans Elect gave it a go.

But it didn’t work out, according to Politico:

Americans Elect, the deep-pocketed nonprofit group that set out to nominate a centrist third-party presidential ticket, admitted early Tuesday that its ballyhooed online nominating process had failed.

The group had qualified for the general election ballot in 27 states, and had generated concern among Democrats and Republicans alike that it could wreak havoc on a close election between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

But just after a midnight deadline Monday, the group acknowledged that its complicated online nominating process had failed to generate sufficient interest to push any of the candidates who had declared an interest in its nomination over the threshold in its rules.

“Because of this, under the rules that AE delegates ratified, the primary process would end today,” said the group’s Kahlil Byrd in a statement issued at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. He seemed to leave the door open for proceeding outside the original process, however, adding, “There is, however, an almost universal desire among delegates, leadership and millions of Americans who have supported AE to see a credible candidate emerge from this process.”…

When I first heard about Americans Elect sometime last year, I was briefly excited about it. I even spent an hour or so answering the seemingly never-ending questionnaire about my political attitudes that I found on the group’s website.

But before I could even get around to writing about it on the blog, I started having my doubts, and decided to sit back, wait and see.

What gave me pause was the online process itself.

The Web is an awesome tool for many purposes. It beats snail mail all hollow. It’s a great way to shop (as long as you don’t want to examine the merchandise closely). And it enables us to do all sorts of things we couldn’t do before — such as share videos — with a wide audience. And it can be used effectively in the service of many political aims — the first serious step in any campaign is the establishment of a Web presence.

But I worry when we start using it as a substitute for analog participation. I especially don’t like the idea of online voting — or any type of voting that makes the process too easy. Perhaps I should say, too facile. I believe excessive ease breeds carelessness, and we have enough careless voting going on right now. People should have to think about how they’re going to vote, and go to a certain amount of trouble to go cast their votes.

As for forming a political movement from scratch… well, I think maybe “Ivy Day in the Committee Room” might be a better approach than an Ollie-Ollie In Come Free online invitation. If you’re trying to forge a Third Way movement, it seems like you need maximum interaction among people committed to the ideas upon which your movement is based, honing the principles involved and deciding upon standard-bearers — then turning to the public for input.

Or so it seems. Admittedly, I’m sort of thinking out loud here, and I welcome your input.

In any case, the approach that Americans Elect chose was doomed to fail. With the process wide open, it was predictable that what happened would happen — the group ended up with Ron Paul as its top vote-getter. As I’ve noted in the past, one of the best ways to boost readership of a blog is to put “Ron Paul” in a headline. Paulistas love them some Interwebs.

The main two problems with that result were 1) Rep. Paul is far on the outer fringe of one of the parties, the very opposite of the kind of centrist candidate the group was seeking, and 2) He didn’t want the group’s nomination anyway.

What the group wanted was someone of the ilk of Joe Lieberman or Lamar Alexander — either one of which could have persuaded me to vote for the ticket. But sensible guys like that do not get spontaneously nominated by a mob. You have to put them forward deliberately, and promote them in a concerted manner.

17 thoughts on “UnParty wannabe fails to pick candidate

  1. Brad

    In case you’re curious, here is the release from Americans Elect that inspired the Politico piece:

    12:01 A.M., MAY 15, 2012 – Over the past two years, Americans Elect has focused on achieving three clear goals:

    · Gaining nationwide ballot access for a third presidential ticket to compete in the 2012 race;
    · Holding the first ever nonpartisan secure national online primary at AmericansElect.org; and
    · Fielding a credible, balanced, unaffiliated ticket for the 2012 presidential race.

    Through the efforts of thousands of staffers, volunteers, and leadership, Americans Elect has achieved every stated operational goal. Despite these efforts, as of today, no candidate has reached the national support threshold required to enter the “Americans Elect Online Convention” this June. (Read a detailed summary of the AE process here and the full rules here.)

    Because of this, under the rules that AE delegates ratified, the primary process would end today. There is, however, an almost universal desire among delegates, leadership and millions of Americans who have supported AE to see a credible candidate emerge from this process.

    Every step of the way, AE has conferred with its community before making major decisions. We will do the same this week before determining next steps for the immediate future. AE will announce the results of these conversations on Thursday, May 17.

    As always, we thank everyone who has participated in this effort and will honor the work, efforts and trust so many people have placed in Americans Elect.


  2. bud

    I was with you until you refered to Joe Liberman as a centrist type. No one who supported the Iraq war even to the point of criticizing our withdrawal in 2011 cannot be regarded as a centrist/moderate or anything else but a radical.

  3. Brad

    I won’t argue with you about Joe, because our respective positions on the war make agreement impossible.

    But you have to agree — anyone would have to agree — that Lamar Alexander is UnParty material.

    This presents us with a problem. Ever since I covered him when he ran successfully (his second try) for governor in 1978, I’ve noted that, as much as I like him, one of his main defining characteristics is a certain… blandness.

    Which poses the question, must Third Way candidates always be the sort who don’t excite the electorate? Not necessarily. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair were both Third Wayers (at least to start), and neither of them was boring.

    It’s a matter of finding just the right candidate. Which is why you don’t trust the process to an open question on the Web. You find that special candidate, and put all you’ve got behind him. And even then, you’ve got a long uphill fight, when you’re trying to do it outside one of the main parties. (Remember, Clinton and Blair came in through the party system — an electoral strength, but often a drawback in trying to govern from the center, since their parties always worked to pull them to the left.)

    There’s also the problem that most people who would fit the bill are people with little or no name recognition. BECAUSE they are sensible centrists, they tend to be marginalized in our current setup, and therefore have trouble getting the very recognition that would be important to boosting them to electoral success by this unlikely route.

    Sort of a Catch-22 situation. If they are the kind of candidate the third party would want, they don’t have enough star power on their own to win as a third-party candidate.

  4. bud

    I just don’t find much practical about seeking out “sensible centrists”. Not to belabor the point but most everyone has something that’s a bit radical. And that’s ok. I find the Democratic Party, which mostly adheres to moderate policies with a few that might be regardes as liberal, a much more practical fit. Why reinvent the wheel?

  5. Brad

    For me, the answer to that is easy: I disagree with far too much that the Democratic Party stands for. I have the same problem with the Republican Party.

    And I am alienated by both of them especially when they insist upon orthodoxy — such as when Republicans dismiss those among them as RINOs, and Democrats all turn on and tear apart someone like Joe Lieberman. It’s a process that reminds me of Randle Patrick McMurphy’s description of a “pecking party.”

  6. bud

    Fair enough. I’d love to see another viable party. I guess where I disagree is that to me the Democrats have pretty much become the centrist party. It has long lost any recognizable liberal character.

  7. martin

    Maybe most people are just observant enough to know the problem is not with the Presidency.
    To paraphrase, it’s the Congress, stupid.

  8. Doug Ross

    A centrist candidate on the national level is by definition someone very few people would vote for.

    You have the 10% fringe on each end of the spectrum and the 10% in the middle.

    Try running for office just once and see where “centrist” gets you.

  9. Karen McLeod

    There is nothing there to define “moderate.” What is moderate for you is not moderate for Bud, or Doug, or me. Until you set some parameters, it’s impossible to get any kind of consensus.

  10. bud

    Karen makes a great point. Let me take a stab at this:

    Health Care
    Liberal – Single Payer
    Conservative – Voucher Based Free Market approach
    Moderate – Medicaid/Medicare/Government requirements for insurers (pre-existing conditions etc)


    Liberal – Cut military budget by 20%
    Conservative – Fund military at cold war levels/intervene in other countries to force American values
    Moderate – Military budget is ok right now/limited intervention such as drone strikes ok

    Liberal – Spending lavishly on a variety of stimulus measures such as infrastructure/education/helping state and local governments. Tax wealthy taxpayers to offset the cost
    Consevertive – Drastic cuts to everything but military. Cut taxes, especially for the wealthy
    Moderate – Some modest stimulus spending ok but keep taxes as is for rich but lower for modest income folks.

    Not much nuance but perhaps a framework for useful discussion.

  11. Brad

    Here’s a release that came today from Americans Elect, putting as brave a face as they can on things:

    There is a desire among Delegates and millions of Americans who have supported Americans Elect to see a credible candidate emerge from this process.

    However, the rules, as developed in consultation with the Americans Elect Delegates, are clear. As of this week, no candidate achieved the national support threshold required to enter the Americans Elect Online Convention in June. The primary process for the Americans Elect nomination has come to an end.

    Americans Elect, from the outset, has been a rules-based process, with the rules publicly available and open to debate by the Delegates. Our key priorities have been to: 1) honor the trust Americans Elect has built with the Delegates and American public; 2) require candidates to earn the nomination by building support among the Americans Elect Delegate community and American voters; and 3) create a basis for a solid future for the Americans Elect movement.

    This decision honors these priorities.

    Through the efforts of thousands of staffers, volunteers and leadership, Americans Elect has achieved its operational goals, including:
    · Creating a pathway for nationwide ballot access for a balanced presidential ticket
    unaffiliated with the nominating process of either major party to compete in the
    2012 race;
    · Building the technological platform for the first nonpartisan secure national online
    primary at AmericansElect.org;
    · Attracting a significant base of more than 4 million supporters, including Delegates,
    petition signers and volunteers;
    · Educating the national and local media on the Americans Elect mission; and
    · Finishing an extensive candidate briefing program involving more than 100
    potential candidates.

    As always, we thank everyone who has helped build this organization and are grateful for the work, efforts, and trust so many people have placed in Americans Elect. We are continuing the Americans Elect mission of creating more choice in our political system, giving candidates unaffiliated with the nominating process of either major party an authentic way to run for office and giving the American people a greater voice in our political process.

  12. Phillip

    I agree, too, with Karen’s point about the definition of moderate. A good illustration is your defining Ron Paul as “on the outer fringe” of his party, and not a centrist. But really, you and Ron Paul are the same, only inverted. He is hard-core libertarian on economic/domestic policy issues, and extends that to a more classically-conservative strict definition of what “national defense” means, therefore decrying foreign adventurism. You are more communitarian and often tilting slightly progressive on domestic/economic issues, but with a strong Wilsonian/Scoop-Jacksonish bent in terms of US role in the world. For both of you, that combination of views is not entirely consistent with the dominant viewpoint of either political party, to be sure; but why does that make Ron Paul some kind of fringy extremist, while you’re Mr. Unparty centrist guy?

  13. Brad

    Good point, Phillip. The problem is with the word, “centrist.” that’s not what I am, but it’s a shorthand term for “not of either party,” so I use it sometimes.

    But I think it’s valid to say that Paul is like a Republican, only MORE SO, in the extreme libertarian direction. You wouldn’t say that about me. I’m not like either, much less like them only more so.

    Nor am I the Kwizatz Haderach. I am something the witches of the Bene Gesserit never expected… Something they could not imagine…

  14. Doug Ross

    A centrist would occupy the middle ground on issues. You exist on the peaks on both sides. And it’s really just one side – identifying with the solution that requires the most government involvement. More laws, more rules, more taxes.

  15. Brad

    No, Doug, just more than you.

    I am completely agnostic on the “size of government” thing. Sometimes the government needs to do something, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes taxes need to go down, sometimes they need to go up. All the same to me, depending on the given situation. Each decision is separate, and not part of any grand theory.

    If I lived in France, I’d look around and see stuff I didn’t think the gummint needed to do. In this country, that’s less likely to happen, because we are historically SO reluctant to have it do even some of the logical things that it would do best. And in South Carolina, we refuse to fund adequately the services we vote for. Go check out the prisons that we insist on sending a huge portion of our population to if you don’t believe me. Grossly underfunded. Do I want to spend more there? I do if we keep insisting on imprisoning that many people. But since I don’t want to do THAT — since I want government to do less in that way (although more in monitoring people convicted of crimes instead of jailing them) — I think we could do it with close to what we spend now. If we got smart.

    But we don’t want to get smart. We want to “lock ’em up,” and pretend the pittance we spend on prisons is adequate.

  16. Silence

    Brad – If we did the prisons right: Surplus army tents, multiple rows of tall chain link fences topped by razor wire, snipers on the towers, and had them building roads, etc. They wouldn’t cost so much. We put billions nationwide into prison construction when they could be livinig in camps. Then that money could be spent to do some actual rehabilitation, or if we are just warehousing hardened lifers, it coudl be redirected to education. Of course that’s another place where we put all our money into facilities…. A&E firms, GC’s all gotta get paid….

  17. bud

    I am completely agnostic on the “size of government” thing.


    Seriously, you see yourself that way. Seriously. I guess we all view ourselves somewhat differently than what others see us but seriously this is profoundly out of touch.

    Please understand I don’t take offense to a person that believes a lot of government is a good thing. I think big government is useful in a large number of areas – health care, providing food and shelter to the needy, regulating business to ensure wages and work conditioins are reasonable. On the other hand I think government gets involved in some areas that it shouldn’t – recreational drugs, Sunday commerce, gambling, pregnancy, end of life decisions and especially the internal affairs of foreign nations.

    But Brad, bless his heart, in spite of a very spirited and ongoing defense of government intervention into EVERYTHING actually claims to be agnostic on the size of government. Shocking. Just shocking.

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