A lot of questions surrounding the sudden emergence of Americans Elect, the new political party that doesn’t want to be officially recognized as a political party. But, since it’s raised a good grip of cash to get a nominating process underway – $22 million at last official count – it’s hard not to view it as a political party. Krissah Thompson in The Washington Post reports:
The effort could represent a promising new chapter for political moderates, who see a wide-open middle in the political landscape as congressional gridlock and bitter partisan fights have driven down favorability ratingsfor both parties.
“Voters are saddened by the inability of people in Washington to deal with the issues that are important to them,” said the group’s chief executive, Kahlil Byrd, a Republican strategist who once worked for Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick (D).
Americans Elect has ballot slots in Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio and five other states, with certification pending in several others.
The group is relying on an ambitious plan to hold a political convention on the Internet that would treat registered voters like fans of “American Idol,” giving everyone a shot at picking a favorite candidate.
2012 represents the year of new: candidates and the parties are attempting to break through the usual political and campaign strategy conventions as a way to tap into a restless American electorate that’s increasingly twitchy and cynical about government. Americans Elect get some props for one of the more catchy home page slogans: “Pick a President; Not a Party.” The site is, by all appearances, very fresh, clean and impressive. It’s definitely not an amateur effort by any means. But, there are more questions than answers.
How different is Americans Elect from a normal two-party dominated political process if, at the moment, their process is reliant on two-party candidates? This is essentially Google Trends 3.0, Americans Elect “tracking” candidate clout and resonance based on how they rank online. At the moment, Republican candidate Ron Paul (R-TX) is at the top with President Barack Obama in 2nd place. How’d that happen, most folks are going to ask? Simply the result of more people online talking about Ron Paul than Barack Obama.
There’s also Buddy Roemer, Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson – and … huh? Trey Gowdy? Who’s that? On one hand the problem is that the list is populated by a crowd of low-tier Presidential wannbes who are barely registering enough in the polls to get a debate slot. On the other hand, it’s good Americans Elect is being equitable by spreading the coverage – but, again, what’s the point if few people know the candidates?
The problem, or the experiment, is an attempt to figure out just how much online enthusiasm, trending, and social media notes-in-the-back-of-the-classroom actually translates into raw get-your-behind-out-of-the-chair voting. That’s been the question of the ages since the first hyper digital election in 2000, when candidates like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) discovered online fundraising. Googling your favorite candidate is one thing, but voting for them is another.
Americans Elect says its not a party, filing as a “social welfare” organization instead. Which, rightfully so, raises some red flags from watchdog groups like Democracy 21 that want to know where the $22 mill came from. Based on the website and sophisticated method, however, Americans Elect is positioning itself as a major player. But as what? A group of fed-up, exasperated and estranged political strategists from the two parties looking for something different? That’s a thought. Whatever it is, there’s no doubt they are being very … smart about it. Which should worry Democrats who have a lot more at stake than Republicans when it comes to energizing the online-heavy youth electorate. Also at stake is that silent and growing majority of disillusioned independent voters who are about done with either party.
Still, what is Americans Elect’s answer to mobilizing Black and Latino voters considering a large share retrieve their information on public figures online, particularly through social media? How do you get voters of color enthusiastic about mostly old White men who are popular in search engine rankings?
Some observers are speculating that it’s a front for a potential Independent bid from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who 1) has lots of cash and 2) is not a big fan of President Obama. And who has the most to lost from this effort?
Bloomberg is not making any effort to cool the speculation, either. Toby Harnden in The Telegraph:
He accused members of Congress of “political cowardice” for helping bring about a “disaster for the country” but the former Democrat and Republican who is now an Independent reserved his strongest words for Mr Obama.
“The executive branch must do more than submit a plan to a committee – and then step aside and hope the committee members take action. That’s not how any CEO would run a business.
He added: “It’s not how landmark pieces of legislation have gotten through Congress. Tough problems require determined, forceful and bold leadership – and real action.”
Tough words could be translated as Bloomberg considering a bid for the White House. Signs of that will become much clearer once the Republican primaries start up.