Political Animal


April 20, 2012 2:38 PM Americans Elect: A Question of Imbalance

By Ed Kilgore

There’s an ever-more-obvious instability at the heart of the Americans Elect experiment in an induced “centrist” presidential ticket. The group does not have a remotely viable candidate who meets its basic criteria (unless Thomas Friedman’s shout-out to Michael Bloomberg, one of many that have issued from one end of Manhattan to the other, somehow strikes a chord). It’s doesn’t have a whole lot of current public interest in its web-driven persona. At present, the top online vote-getter among candidates pursuing the AE nomination, Buddy Roemer, has a booming 3575 “supporters.” For reasons both of supply and demand, AE has postponed its scheduled first round of “voting” for a candidate by a month.

But AE does have a bankable asset: ballot access in 25 states, with more likely to be secured in the immediate future, since that’s mainly what the group’s initial “investment” from undiclosed donors has gone towards, aside from its web site.

You have to wonder: at what point do AE’s backers admit they’ve created a rich opportunity for its ballot lines to be hijacked by someone with less than pure motives for pursuing them, or who cares not a fig for AE’s “centrist” principles or its lofty commitment to ground-up democratic empowerment? Yes, they have safeguards to avoid the wrong kind of nominee, but if exercised, they will only make a mockery of the whole enterprise, and represent a vast bait-and-switch whereby a shadowy group of elites chooses someone who could have a perverse effect on the outcome of a close presidential election.

I hope one of their “safeguards” involves the option of calling the whole thing off.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Bort on April 20, 2012 2:53 PM:

    I'm hoping for a Bloomberg/Freidman ticket. And if they win, they should immediately rename all our international airports after David Broder.

  • boatboy_srq on April 20, 2012 2:59 PM:

    One of the problems with AE is that "centrists" are being increasingly pushed, not toward the Left, but AWAY from the Right: the Teahadists and the rest of the Reichwing value orthodoxy over rationality, and the continued lockstep is driving anyone with any sense out of their camp. The results may look like the centrists are going left, but the reality is far different.

    BTW Ed, "ground-up democratic empowerment" sounds less like a grassroots effort and more like a party put through La Machine.

  • SadOldVet on April 20, 2012 3:01 PM:

    Good analysis Ed. You have more confidence than I that there was ever any pure or good intent from the financial backers of these group.

  • Peter C on April 20, 2012 3:29 PM:

    It seems to me that “Amercians Elect” is merely a bald effort by a bunch of wealthy people to advance the idea that Obama isn’t already a centrist. They know that the Republicans have already moved to the far right edge of the right wing, still they want them to win. They also know that most Americans don’t want to think of themselves as extremists. Sadly (for them), they’re having trouble finding candidates (because all the politically astute people understand that the Republican Party has no interest in compromise and power sharing), and they have no followers (because they have no candidates). So, by any objective measure, they are electorally insignificant.

    HOWEVER, they have great rhetorical value since they support a frame which casts both political parties as equivalently extremist, thereby making the Democratic Party seem less legitimate.

    The best countermeasure to AE is to use the 99% frame. In that frame, AE is just another effort taken by the 1% to keep political power. Their love affair with Billionaire Michael Bloomberg obviously reinforces this frame. Given the astronomical cost of campaigning; it’s pretty clear that ANYONE they get to run will likely also fit the frame.

    The 99% frame is really the Democratic party’s best overall strategy, especially since the Republicans have defaulted to running Richie Rich Romney.

  • Blue Girl on April 20, 2012 4:08 PM:

    Again I'm sorry to break in with an off-topic hankie-alert post, but I just got an email from our friend Gulag. The subject line was "The saddest news possible" --

    But he's finally at peace.
    My Pop passed away at around 9:15 this morning.
    At home.
    As pain-free as possible.
    And, most importantly, with dignity.

    He, and we, accomplished what we set out to do.
    I love him.
    I’ll miss him terribly. He was the smartest man I ever met. Funny, kind, wise, and strict. A class act all the way!
    And I don’t know what we’ll do without him. But my Mom, Sister, and I, will manage somehow.

    I want to thank everyone for their kind words and thoughts in these tough times.

    My Pop will be buried on Monday.

    Thanks again.

    Love... Peace...

  • Matt on April 20, 2012 4:10 PM:

    Let's assume that everything goes according to the AE plan, and some über-centrist wet-dream ticket gets nominated. Say, Joe Lieberman/Tom Friedman. Two people who aren't clearly running from the extreme fringe of one party or another and who are at least vaguely plausible as candidates for national political office.

    What, exactly, are these guys supposed to say when they enter the race a few months before the election? "Guess what! I've been running for president all this time! SURPRISE, MOTHERFUCKERS!"

    Here's a litmus test: if, come April of an election year, you have zero people willing to declare that they are even seeking your guaranteed ballot line--much less to accept it--then you are wasting your donors' money in a fashion that is either profoundly negligent or outright fraudulent.

  • rrk1 on April 20, 2012 4:42 PM:

    Regardless of stated intentions, AE will effectively draw votes from Obama, should there be a candidate, and it is close to unbelievable that its invisible donors have anything else in mind. AE idealists, if they can be called that and if there are any, may want to distance themselves from the teabaggers, but they too want a government that looks out for the 1%.

    The cynic in me (and he is large) can't help but believe this is merely another Rethug plot to throw the election in their direction.

  • HMDK on April 20, 2012 4:49 PM:

    AE is a pitiful enterprise.
    You start with ideas and principles and a candidate who at the very least seems to stand for them.
    You don't outline a lack of positions, or at "best" a bevy of mealy-mouthedness and then hang out a sign saying: "Looking for applicants to serve as the Candidate". Not only isn't it grass-roots, it's its antithesis.
    And it seems to governed by the absurdist belief that both parties are always and equally wrong.

  • SteveT on April 20, 2012 5:13 PM:

    Nominations via internet . . .

    Tron Guy / Dramatic Hamster -- 2012!

  • G.Kerby on April 20, 2012 5:27 PM:

    My conolences to Gulag.

  • TCinLA on April 20, 2012 7:14 PM:

    Maybe uber trophy bimbo Lady Rothschild can run. Then they're really be voting for an aristocrat, which is what they want.

  • d nova on April 20, 2012 9:57 PM:

    don't know if you misread or if in the past 7 hours ron paul's supporters bombed the site, but he now leads roemer 2 to 1. if he gets nominated, doesn't he take votes from romney?

  • Geri on April 24, 2012 5:44 PM:

    To the naysayers: Phhhht

    We desperately need an alternative to presidential candidates who are hand selected by the oil and finance industries. Instead of tearing down an effort to give us a real choice, why don't you apply your energy and intelligence to making this work!

    Providing us with a real choice is a monumental task. It will never work unless "we the people" get behind it. If we don't, we deserve more corporate bailouts, more credit default swap bailouts, more tax loopholes for prosperous corporations and the top .001 %, the deterioration of the middle class standard of living......

    The problem with democracy is that we elect the people we vote for. Frankly, I am about to conclude that it is a failed experiment. The author is one of the reasons why.