Sunday, July 24, 2011


Tom Friedman is writing about a third-party presidential effort again -- yes, there's another such effort under way, cooked up yet again by a bunch of good burghers in expensive suits who think this time they've found a way to get this done that's so Democracy 2.0 it just has to succeed.

I'll quote you a bit of Friedman's gush below, but first, let me say this: unlike most lefty bloggers, I don't think the idea of a third-party presidential candidacy is utterly laughable -- I think a lot of people in America would go for a self-styled centrist in 2012 perhaps more than any other year, just because I'm sure they'd love an alternative to endless rounds of "These people suck -- let's vote for the other guys." But sorry, there's no electable self-styled centrist on the horizon, and even if there is, electing a self-styled centrist as the head of the government isn't going to work any better in D.C. than it did in California in the Schwarzenegger years, because the real problem isn't the lack of self-styled centrism, it's the Non-Negotiable Demand Crazy Party and its refusal to bend on anything, ever, which will be true in the case of a president whose name is followed by an (I) just as much as it would be if the (I) were a (D) instead.

In any case, here's the cockamamie plan:

Here is how it will work, explains Elliot Ackerman, an Iraq war veteran with a Silver Star, who serves as the chief operating officer of Americans Elect, and whose father, Peter, a successful investor, has been a prime engine behind the group. First, anyone interested in becoming a delegate goes to the Americans Elect Web site and registers. As part of that process, you will be asked to fill in a questionnaire about your political priorities: education, foreign policy, the economy, etc. This enables Americans Elect to put you in contact with others who share your views so you can discuss them and organize together. Then you will be invited to draft a candidate or support one who has already been drafted and to contribute to the list of questions that anyone running on the Americans Elect platform will have to answer on the site....

Any presidential nominee must conform to all the Constitutional requirements, as well as be considered someone of similar stature to our previous presidents. That means no Lady Gaga allowed. Every candidate will have to post in words or video his or her answers to the platform questions produced by the Americans Elect delegates. In April 2012, the candidate pool will be reduced to six through three rounds of voting. The six, assuming they all want to run, will then have to name their running mates. The only rule is that a Democrat must run with a Republican or independent, and a Republican with a Democrat or independent....

I figure one of two things will happen: either the Ron Paul people will be the only ones willing to take this process seriously, and they'll find an independent or nominal Democrat who's also libertarian to run with Paul, then stuff the ballot box ... or the whole thing will be taken over, like so many online efforts to take America's political pulse, by ... marijuana-legalization advocates. So I guess the candidates will be Gary Johnson and ... um, Willie Nelson? Does Willie have more "stature" than Lady Gaga? (Judging by the number of "My President Is Willie Nelson" bumper stickers I've seen over the years, I'm guessing a lot of people would say yes.)

Or, of course, the whole thing could just die of indifference, like every other effort to administer the third-party magic bullet. I'd say that's because there hasn't been a single effort of this kind at the national level that involved any prominent person breaking a sweat -- all that ever happens is that important (and self-important) people get together, form a group, put out a press release, pat themselves on the back at a launch party, and then wait for the public to come to them. You wanna be president? This is America -- run. Get out there and wear out some shoe leather. Don't wait around for us to beg you to be president. That doesn't make you the way out of our morass -- that makes you Sarah Palin.


Yes, in theory I suppose this is a possible opportunity for Jon Huntsman -- but by the time this online plebiscite rolls around, Huntsman will have failed to attain even 5% of the vote in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, or Florida before dropping out of the race for the GOP nomination, and he'll be so covered in flop sweat that it will be impossible to see him as a future president -- not just in 2012, but for the rest of his life.

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