Let a thousand flowers bloomberg
December 16, 2011 12:14 PM   Subscribe

Americans Elect is an organization creating a ready-made slot on the 2012 presidential ballot for an unnamed independent ticket, thus removing the biggest barrier to a 3rd party challenge. (Donald Trump suggests himself.) The NYT thinks they'll qualify in all 50 states. They say they want a non-partisan, mixed-party ticket. Some on the left see a cabal of shadowy millionaires with ties to the FBI, CIA and military behind it. Team Obama is concerned.
posted by msalt (93 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Political moderates? So halfway between batshit insane conservative and plain old vanilla conservative?
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:17 PM on December 16, 2011 [15 favorites]


Some on the left see a cabal of shadowy millionaires with ties to the FBI, CIA and military behind it.

Why would a cabal of shadowy millionaires turn to the internet to try to win elections? For laughs?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:18 PM on December 16, 2011 [9 favorites]


Bull Moose.
posted by box at 12:19 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I believe the standard term is "for the lulz".
posted by elizardbits at 12:19 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's brilliant, brilliant! I say.

They'll run a bozo like Perry or Noot as the Apple Pie / White People republican and a businessman as the Plain Talking / What's Good For Business is Good For America independent. They don't care which will win (because they'll control whoever it is).

Games theory has spoken: siphon off as many popular votes as possible from Obama and let the electoral vote "bullshit amplifier" sort out the rest.

Now: you can sing the doom song.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:24 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ok. I vote for Krusty the Klown since I don't want a spoiler candidate getting as-yet-undetermined GOP crazypants elected.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 12:24 PM on December 16, 2011


Donald Trump suggests himself.

To me, he suggests a baboon.
posted by Bummus at 12:25 PM on December 16, 2011 [31 favorites]



They'll run a bozo like Perry or Noot as the Apple Pie / White People republican and a businessman as the Plain Talking / What's Good For Business is Good For America independent. They don't care which will win (because they'll control whoever it is).


Wouldn't that split the Republican vote
posted by shakespeherian at 12:26 PM on December 16, 2011 [9 favorites]


They forgot the Bilderberg Group, The Trilateral Commission, The Illuminati, Woodmen of the World, Skull & Bones, the RAND corporation, the Masons, the Methodists, the John Birch Society, the Stonecutters, Rosicrucians, Templars, Hospitalers, a quorum of the Krewes of Gasparilla, a team from Davos and some of those guys from that Biodome thing awhile back.

Now that's a ticket I could get behind.
posted by jquinby at 12:27 PM on December 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


Why would a cabal of shadowy millionaires turn to the internet to try to win elections? For laughs?

To siphon enough "moderate" voters away from Obama to get Willard Romney elected.
posted by dibblda at 12:29 PM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Team Obama is concerned.

I'll bet... concerned they won't get Joe Lieberman to ride Trump's bitch seat. You know, so it'll be bi-partisan.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:31 PM on December 16, 2011


I'm with Shakesphereian. I can see this as one of two things; a reasonably genuine effort by moderate Republicans (eg Christine Todd Whitman is on the board), or a panicked "Oh crap all the Republican candidates are losers" by Koch et. al.

Either way, I think the results are unpredictable. There are definitely a lot of conservatives who will go with the Republican nominee, even if it's Newt or Romney, and both have high enough negatives that a lot won't.

3 way races can swing very easily. Even a clearly insane Perot who dropped out and reentered got 22% in 1992.
posted by msalt at 12:31 PM on December 16, 2011


President Kardashian.
posted by R. Schlock at 12:33 PM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


> Wouldn't that split the Republican vote

John Anderson was a moderate Republican, and he helped get Reagan elected.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 12:35 PM on December 16, 2011


Didn't Perot get Clinton elected?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:38 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


So this is basically rich assholes buying a spot on all 50 ballots for whatever spoiler candidate they choose?

We really are so fucked aren't we.
posted by scrowdid at 12:39 PM on December 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


> American Select
Yer parsing it wrong, it's actually

"American Select" ==> the top one percent.

Remember, it's not just cream that floats.

"It has already raised an impressive $22 million as of last month. So where is all that money coming from? Americans Elect won’t say. In fact, the group changed how it is organized under the tax code last year in order to shield the identity of donors. It is now a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” group whose contributors are not reported publicly.

What we do know about the donors, largely through news reports citing anonymous sources, suggests they are a handful of super-rich Americans who made fortunes in the finance industry. ...." == from the Alternet link in the first post
posted by hank at 12:39 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


It seems unlikely that such a candidate could actually win an election but they could get enough support in battleground states to sway the election from one result to another ala Nader in 2000.

The question is would the likely candidate from this party cause a splintering on the right or the left or would they be "centrist" enough that they would peal off votes from both parties in relatively equal numbers?

Until a specific candidate is selected it seems impossible to tell if this is designed to harm a Republican or Democratic candidate but there does seem to be some worrying signs about it's leadership and funding.
posted by vuron at 12:41 PM on December 16, 2011


Aren't they linked to Arno? And isn't Arno shady as hell?
posted by joe lisboa at 12:46 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have to share this exclamation: What interesting choices for the candidate selection committee.
posted by dhartung at 12:47 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


If they are aiming at Obama, maybe he is doing something right, after all.

Or maybe they are reasonable people who see the Republican ticket is a joke and they would like to find a non-retarded candidate somewhere.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 12:48 PM on December 16, 2011


Don't blame me. I'm voting for Kodos.
posted by mhum at 12:52 PM on December 16, 2011


They don't care which will win (because they'll control whoever it is).

I assume you've never heard of K Street?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:04 PM on December 16, 2011


Thomas Friedman thinks this is wonderful, exciting new idea in leveling the presidential playing field.

Which means it's precisely the opposite of that.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:05 PM on December 16, 2011 [32 favorites]


Although, one shouldn't call what Thomas Friedman writes "thinking."
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:07 PM on December 16, 2011 [11 favorites]


Paul/Perot 2012!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:11 PM on December 16, 2011


There's nothing I don't hate about that Friedman column. What a load of puffed up wankery.
posted by octothorpe at 1:13 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


You can not run a batch of lefties and righties in one pile ...the views of each grouping so far apart that they can never come together as one.
posted by Postroad at 1:16 PM on December 16, 2011


Don't read between the lines on the Friedman piece. You'll just get covered in slobbery, blubbering "Yes, my master" obsequiences.
posted by Slackermagee at 1:17 PM on December 16, 2011


Final candidate selection through an internet based convention? Fantastic! That never goes poorly.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:18 PM on December 16, 2011


Three possibilities

-Crazier than current Republican field: siphons off votes from Republican nominee, but also possibly makes Republican nominee look saner by comparison (this works for Mitt, not so much for the others)

-Not as crazy as current Republican field: might take votes from Obama, but might also take moderate Republican votes and independents. Might prevent Republican votes from going to Obama, or staying home, but at a cost to the Republican nominee

-Left of Obama: no idea. Would they even do this?


(btw, has anyone tried googling Mitt Romney recently? I think something weird is going on.)
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:21 PM on December 16, 2011


I get his campaign site, wikipedia, social networking promotion, and newsy campaign sites. You?
posted by a robot made out of meat at 1:27 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Googling Mitt Romney gives me his campaign site, Wikipedia, his Twitter site and then his Facebook site. Pretty much what you'd expect. What are you seeing?
posted by octothorpe at 1:27 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't really see how this can pull votes away from Obama and not a GOPer in equal proportion. If Newt Gingrich is the candidate, why would moderated leave Obama and not flee the craziness of Gingrich? (I can't believe "rich" is in that dude's name)
posted by arveale at 1:33 PM on December 16, 2011


(btw, has anyone tried googling Mitt Romney recently? I think something weird is going on.)

What you talkin' bout Willard.
posted by dibblda at 1:34 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


You can not run a batch of lefties and righties in one pile ...the views of each grouping so far apart that they can never come together as one.

This actually isn't true. Anti-statist libertarians and collective-action socialists end up having a lot in common.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:35 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm getting a weird quote from American Psycho in the autocomplete. I don't recall googling quotes from American Psycho lately, but then again, I haven't been well.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:37 PM on December 16, 2011


One more reason we really, really need a new voting system in this country - so that we never have to worry about vote-splitting again. It's only a possibility because we use such a completely brain-dead choice of voting systems.
posted by evilangela at 1:43 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I started running through a somewhat frightening scenario the other day, because I'm starting to hear echoes of the 2010 Alaska Senate election.

Suppose the Republicans continue on their current track, and nominate a crazy and unelectable candidate (ie. NotRomney). Although, yes, you could argue that Romney is less sane and electable than he once appeared to be, we'll save that topic for another day.

Most reasonable Republicans (they exist), and even the party leadership would have a very difficult time standing behind such a candidate.

From there, three potential scenarios could play out: The likelihood of either NotObama candidate capturing more than 50% of the vote in either of the latter two scenarios is almost nil, especially since that candidate would be competing against Obama and the "real" GOP candidate.

However, no candidate would need to capture 50% to guarantee a conservative victory. In fact, they'd only need to make sure that one of the two conservative candidates lures enough moderate voters to make sure that Obama gets less than 50% of the electoral votes. In this scenario, the House elects the president instead of The People. The actual split doesn't matter -- just as long as Obama gets under 50%.

If a liberal 3rd-party candidate ran and got an electoral vote, things would be even bleaker for Obama, and would be another way of guaranteeing this scenario.

Running a moderate conservative alongside a batshit-crazy conservative could easily lure enough moderates to produce such a split. Ron Paul's the real trump card here, because he could probably attract a fair number of people who would otherwise vote for Obama.

Under the Twelfth Amendment, the Representatives in the House would vote by state (50 total votes; DC does not get a vote). Given the current breakdown of the House, even though the overall split isn't overwhelmingly conservative, there are way more states with more GOP representatives than Democrats. Provided that the conservative members of the House voted as a block for one of the two NotObama candidates, they would clinch a landslide victory. In fact, their majority is so significant that they could still achieve victory with a fair number of dissenters.

If Romney gets nominated, and the members of the House conspire to throw him under the bus, it would also be possible for them to run a Cain/Bacchman/Santorum ticket, get 10% of the electoral votes, and then make Cain/Bacchman/Santorum president from the House. This subversion of democracy is unlikely, but technically permissible by the constitution.

The Twelfth doesn't describe any sort of procedure for breaking ties within states such as Minnesota, which currently have an equal number of Republican and Democratic representatives. This almost certainly wouldn't have an effect on the overall outcome, but it's uncharted territory as far as I'm aware.

The Senate would choose the Vice President, who in all likelihood, would be a very unhappy Democrat.

tl;dr: If you don't want the current GOP members of the house deciding who gets to be our next president, you really don't want a 3rd-party candidate running right now.

And THIS is why you make sure that even the unlikely bits of the constitution are up to date. Grumble. The notion of the House choosing the president (and by state, no less) is even crazier than the electoral college.
posted by schmod at 1:45 PM on December 16, 2011 [24 favorites]


I'm optimistic that the methane gas from Siberia will kill us all before this happens.
posted by msbutah at 1:52 PM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Regarding everything schmod just said: it is really sad to me how many people promote third-party voting as a not-terrible idea, based on the realities of the Twelfth Amendment.
posted by kafziel at 1:53 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Schmod....that's kind of a nightmare scenario isn't it? It also sounds like an Arab spring response to it kind of scenario. Luckily for the president he can now lock up anybody he wants with the millitary and throw away the key legally.


kafziel....voting third party means that the current candidate doesn't represent you enough for you to hold to hold your nose and vote for them, so the worst case scenario is already the reality for that voter. On the other hand Metafilter has had this shouting match before so I'll say no more.
posted by dibblda at 2:01 PM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


The other day on my college campus someone asked me to sign a petition to get the party Citizens Elect to become a recognized party. Her whole selling point was to give people more choice. I didn't sign, but once I got back to a computer all I could find was a badly made free website for them. I assume the volunteer was just mistaken about the name (I'm positive it has Citizens Elect written at the top), or is that just another name for American's Elect?
posted by Deflagro at 2:04 PM on December 16, 2011


Wait - did you just call Ron Paul a "moderate-conservative"???
posted by symbioid at 2:07 PM on December 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


This will always be a suckers bet that pulls more votes away from the Democrat in the race -- whether it's a deliberate plot or not. So no thanks.
posted by pmurray63 at 2:08 PM on December 16, 2011


This will always be a suckers bet that pulls more votes away from the Democrat in the race -- whether it's a deliberate plot or not. So no thanks.

I'm not so sure about that. There is also the chance that the selection committee and their backers are misreading public sentiment as well. I feel like the Tea Party et al. have pulled the Republicans so far to the right that even their idea of a "moderate" now would be unpalatable to a large number of Americans. It would create confusion to say the least, but the potential to damage the Republicans is also there.

Of course, should schmod's nightmare scenario occur, I think the ultimate outcome will be civil war.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:14 PM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


However, no candidate would need to capture 50% to guarantee a conservative victory. In fact, they'd only need to make sure that one of the two conservative candidates lures enough moderate voters to make sure that Obama gets less than 50% of the electoral votes. In this scenario, the House elects the president instead of The People. The actual split doesn't matter -- just as long as Obama gets under 50%.

Even if the popular vote is split, it seems pretty unlikely that this would result in a bigger split of electoral college votes.
posted by snofoam at 2:17 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I signed up for Americans Elect the other day, when I read an article suggesting Obama was worried about challengers from the left. I thought, "Nifty! A bunch of people dissatisfied with the two-party system that is actually a one-party system!"

I answered almost 150 questions before I realized that (a) for some reason my answers only matched up nationally with those of Vermonters, and (b) folks like Robert Reich and Al Gore weren't even listed as potential draftees. If I want to draft someone, it wouldn't be someone from the Americans Elect list.

After reading the links here, I deleted my account over there. Keeping the donors list private is the opposite of transparency in the electoral process.
posted by brina at 2:22 PM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


In fact, they'd only need to make sure that one of the two conservative candidates lures enough moderate voters to make sure that Obama gets less than 50% of the electoral votes.

The chances of that are vanishingly small. The conservative candidates would be competing with each other--in moderate/centrist states that would help Obama. In order for something like this to work the two candidates would have to collude, with the batshit-insane candidate running unopposed in the Tea Party states and the moderate running unopposed in the centrist states. But there's no way A) to get the moderate to agree to the game or B) to do this secretly so as to avoid pissing everyone off.
posted by yoink at 2:22 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


TheWhiteSkull: "Of course, should schmod's nightmare scenario occur, I think the ultimate outcome will be civil war."

Dunno. If the house resolved a Paul/Romney/Obama tie by choosing Romney, I think there'd be a lot of upset people, but no actual violence. Apart from issues about the likelihood of Romney and Paul running against each other, this seems to be the only variation of my scenario that actually stands a chance of happening.

On the other hand, if they used that scenario to sneak a candidate in through the back door, I couldn't predict the possible outcome. Violence would be highly likely. I also don't think the Republicans are actually evil enough to try something like that.
posted by schmod at 2:25 PM on December 16, 2011


How can they get on the ballots without candidates? I was under the impression that you had to put actual names on the ballots.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:43 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


They forgot the Bilderberg Group, The Trilateral Commission, The Illuminati, Woodmen of the World, Skull & Bones, the RAND corporation, the Masons, the Methodists, the John Birch Society, the Stonecutters, Rosicrucians, Templars, Hospitalers, a quorum of the Krewes of Gasparilla, a team from Davos and some of those guys from that Biodome thing awhile back.

That's funny and all, but reading the links, it seems some homework was done on this.

As the Irregular Times link points out, they took the time to go through their corporate by-laws and found that those eligible for being on this Independent ticket will be chosen by a Candidate Certification Committee. The people on this committee are:
Larry Diamond
— Professor of Sociology and Political Science, Stanford University
— Member, Council on Foreign Relations

William Webster
— Former Chairman of the Board, RAND Corporation
— Former Director, FBI
— Former Director, CIA
— Chairman, Homeland Security and Advisory Council to the United States Goverment
— Member, Council on Foreign Relations

James Thomson
— Former staffer, National Security Council and Department of Defense
— President of RAND Corporation until last month
— Member, Council on Foreign Relations
So it's not really crazy-kooky conspiracy theory stuff here. And if AlterNet is right, and this group is refusing to reveal where they get their millions in funding from, it sort of makes it a bit more troubling. I'm not sure I would dismiss this as tinfoilery.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:47 PM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


I do actually wish that these were a bunch of kooks, because then whomever they pick would probably be irrelevant. As it stands, they're going to get a lot of positive press as a 'serious' candidate. I think these guys have a real chance of deciding the election depending on whether they choose to siphon off Republican or Democratic votes.
posted by yoink at 2:54 PM on December 16, 2011


...a cabal of shadowy millionaires with ties to the FBI, CIA and military...

Congress?!
posted by nanojath at 2:58 PM on December 16, 2011 [20 favorites]


Do you choose the batshit crazy dominionist, the "moderate" "liberal" capitalist, or the mystery third neoliberal behind Door Number 3?

...How about instead, vote for someone terrific like Jill Stein.
posted by threeants at 3:06 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay, I've been waiting a few hours to respond, since I first saw this post on my mobile at work.

Last year I was unemployed for a while, and I was desperate for a job. I was applying willy nilly to anything on Idealist and the like for which I was remotely qualified, overqualified, or just nearly qualified. Mostly nonprofits, but a lot of stuff as well.

And after about six months of unemployment, I get an email from Nancy Jacobson of an outfit called No Labels (incidentally, with the most appalling email conventions ever), asking if I wanted to come in for an interview. Now, I was applying to about twenty job postings a day, which is why I am so glad that I keep a detailed spreadsheet of every job I apply to, complete with a link to the original job posting, because I couldn't remember this application from the hundreds of others I had sent out.

And I looked it up, trying to figure out what the hell I had applied to in the first place. And I spent a good hour on their website, trying to figure what it was that they were about, and what it was that they stood for. I may be desperate, but I'm not going to work for the NRA or an organization whose beliefs I abhor. But I couldn't figure out their beliefs, and at six months you get more desperate than you can realize.

So we talk on the phone briefly, and I say "Sure, I'll come in for an interview." The date comes up, and I drive over in my only suit, find their address in Georgetown. It's the second floor of a Century 21 building (or some other realtor). And when I go upstairs, I can see that the office is barely an office. There's some rooms, a bunch of open spaces, a lot of drywall barely hung. There are some earnest people working on computers, a couple people taking calls, but a lot of it is empty. And I'm just wandering around, trying to find the person I'm supposed to meet. No one even bothers me as I wander from open space to open space, and get caught in some sort of weird spiral hallway that spins into itself.

Now, before the interview I had done my due diligence. I had gone to the website, and spent a lot of time there. I had googled, and researched, and tried to read as much as I could. But this was before their big launch and there was basically no information available other than their website, which was so devoid of actual content that I thought it might have been some clever design student's portfolio. Lorem ipsum would have given me more to go on. And I had researched Nancy Jacobson, and found out that she was the wife of Mark Penn, which in my mind is never a good sign. But I wasn't even meeting with Nancy, I was meeting with someone else, whose name I will keep out since she is not a public figure.

So I'm in that office, there to interview for a job that is your typical DC job description, which is to say so broad as to be meaningless, and for an organization that I have no clue about (but not for lack of trying). I finally meet the person I'm supposed to meet, after wandering around and asking random people since there was no front desk to stop at.

The interview starts, and we're sitting at some sort of high drafting or design table that one sees in satire. And it goes through the regular kabuki dance that I've become familiar with after more interviews than I would care to recall. She gives her spiel about what No Labels is about, what the job is about, questions about my experience. And then we come to the part where she asks if I have any questions.

And I do, oh my yes. I'm trying to ask very delicately, because I do not want to appear stupid. I don't want to appear as if I haven't put in the research that I did, that I'm politically unaware (I have spent a good portion of my day reading political news, blogs, and analyses for the last six or seven years), or that I'm just out of it. I ask her sideways maybe three or four times what this is all about.

Me: "So I spent a lot of time researching No Labels, but I can't quite seem to find any sort of mission statement. No Labels says that it is about bipartisan solutions, but it doesn't actually say what problems it is trying to find solutions for, or what form those solutions might take."
Her: "No Labels is about bringing together the left and the right to make the country work again."
Me: "Yes, but it doesn't say what that means. People have differing opinions about a number of issues. Some don't even agree that certain things are issues. When it comes to healthcare, some think the system works fine. Others think it is a shambles and must be reformed. But that second group is further split by people who think that the system should be reformed this way or that. People disagree, and that is why we have partisanship."
Her: "Exactly, and No Labels is about cutting through that divide, to end the partisan bickering in Washington. We're trying to get 25,000 people to join our Facebook group before our launch so we can find out what people want."
Me: "Pardon? So you're saying that you don't really have any aims or goals? You're trying to get people to join before you even start, to find out what you're about?"

This goes back and forth for a while. I'm just trying to get her nailed down about one issue. Not even what her stand on issues are, just what issues No Labels is about, what it wants to address. No dice. It's getting awkward, and I've already decided that I don't want this job, but I'm enjoying this. It's ridiculous, and I just want to point that out to someone.

Me: "So you're going to get people together, gather their information, form an advocacy group, and then decide what you're advocating for? I'm sorry, but that sounds like you're trying to get a gun, and you're going to decide who you are shooting later. Thank you, I'll see myself out."

fin


And that's the thing about these Third Way type organizations. Is partisanship a problem? It can be when fuckall gets done. Or when some really terrible things get done. I'm a liberal guy, I have beliefs and opinions. And when I see an organization that is simply about bipartisanship for bipartisanship's sake, I start to feel an itch behind my eyes that tells me they are full of shit. They're about collecting people's names, numbers, and email addresses to sell off later. They are there for some person to exercise power just to exercise power. It's idiotic.
posted by X-Himy at 3:35 PM on December 16, 2011 [39 favorites]


For those tired of Democrat rule and Republican rule, there is now a third option: joint Democrat-Republican rule!

(first heard that description given for "Unity 08", this looks like another iteration of that)
posted by moorooka at 3:44 PM on December 16, 2011


"Americans Elect, which has gained ballot status in four states so far for its candidate-to-be-named-later, has a similar pedigree to No Labels, though it is more secretive. Its gimmick is that it will provide an open Internet platform allowing citizens to nominate candidates and then vote among the finalists—a “second nominating process,” they call it. But the nominee is required to be a “centrist” or hold a “moderate philosophy.” What if the nominee of the “open” process isn’t a moderate? And who gets to decide whether he is or isn’t? In 38 pages, a recently released briefing book for potential candidates fails to answer those questions.

Initially financed by investment banker Peter Ackerman, and run by Ackerman’s son, Americans Elect appears to be an outgrowth of Unity08, a thinly veiled effort to draft Bloomberg organized by a group of political consultants in 2006. (No surprise that political consultants are Bloomberg’s core constituency: His self-financed mayoral campaigns have made several New York consultants quite wealthy. A presidential run would surely enable a few of them to acquire the ultimate consultants’ status symbol, a Virginia horse-country estate.) Americans Elect’s leadership ranks are thus heavier on consultants—such as Schoen, former Bush and McCain aide Mark McKinnon, and direct-mail pioneer Roger Craver—than lobbyists, although several of the latter recently joined its board." (cite)
posted by jonp72 at 3:54 PM on December 16, 2011


With all the machinations outlined above (and elsewhere), I'm beginning to believe it's more appropriate to describe democracy as one wolf and two sheep deciding what's for dinner.
posted by hangashore at 3:58 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


voting third party means that the current candidate doesn't represent you enough for you to hold to hold your nose and vote for them, so the worst case scenario is already the reality for that voter.

I envy you if you think this is the worst that it can get.
posted by jonp72 at 4:03 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


moorooka: "For those tired of Democrat rule and Republican rule, there is now a third option: joint Democrat-Republican rule!

(first heard that description given for "Unity 08", this looks like another iteration of that)
"

Ah! I was thinking that all this sounded familiar, but couldn't remember what the deal was.
posted by symbioid at 4:26 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


They forgot the Bilderberg Group, The Trilateral Commission, The Illuminati, Woodmen of the World, Skull & Bones, the RAND corporation, the Masons, the Methodists, the John Birch Society, the Stonecutters, Rosicrucians, Templars, Hospitalers, a quorum of the Krewes of Gasparilla, a team from Davos and some of those guys from that Biodome thing awhile back.


You left out the bicycle riders.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:47 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm going to vote for this mystery candidate. I like the cut of his jib!
posted by planet at 5:02 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Duverger's law is a result of the game theory optimized outcome. You get the most effect of your vote by voting for one of the top contenders. So with a single vote, this favors the coalescence into two parties.

Before we can have a viable third party, we need a robust method that does not hurt a faction that offers more than one candidate, or two factions that are close together. Beyond that, one should use a method that best finds the center of the electorate, and not just a majority (or plurality) of the electorate.

The simplest possible method that does this is Approval Voting, and it is much easier to implement than Instant Runoff Voting. Vote "Approve" or "Reject" for each candidate. Highest approval total wins.

With a small adjustment, you have Fallback Approval, a version of Bucklin voting that is also easy to implement with current ballot technology. Vote "Approve", "Second Choice", "Reject" for each candidate. If there is no majority with Approve votes, add in Second Choice votes. Highest approval (if majority) or approval+second-choice total wins.

If you want to preempt the electoral college / popular vote paradox, the easiest method would be to increase the number of representatives in the House. We've been stuck at 435 for nearly a century, and the average representation is one per 710K. It started out at one per 30K.

Why not increase the number of seats to 3000 (about 100K) per seat, but allow 5, 7 or 9 representatives per district to be chosen using Proportional Representation? That way you end up with 500 to 600 districts that are quite well represented and you can short circuit gerrymandering at the same time.

To cut through the Robert's Rules of Order morass that might arise with such a large legislature, create many versions of a bill at the same time, then have a single vote for all versions at once, using a strong centrist method like Fallback Approval, Range, or a Condorcet method such as Schulze.
posted by Araucaria at 5:03 PM on December 16, 2011 [14 favorites]


Third party efforts and the myth of the 'independent'
posted by moorooka at 6:15 PM on December 16, 2011


John Anderson was a moderate Republican, and he helped get Reagan elected.

If you assume that every Anderson voter would have voted for Carter in his absence, Carter picks up New York (41 electoral votes), Michigan (21), Massachusetts (14), North Carolina (13), Wisconsin (11), Tennessee (10), Kentucky (9), Connecticut (8), South Carolina (8), Mississippi (7), Arkansas (6), Maine (4) and Vermont (3). That's a 155-EV swing.

Reagan still wins 334-204, a wide enough margin that he doesn't even bother contesting the four of those states that are within 1 percent.
posted by Etrigan at 6:27 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some on the left see a cabal of shadowy millionaires with ties to the FBI, CIA and military behind it.

Yeah, and Democrats would never vote for someone supported by shadowy millionaires.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:51 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


"They forgot the Bilderberg Group, The Trilateral Commission, The Illuminati, Woodmen of the World, Skull & Bones, the RAND corporation..."

Liar! They did *NOT* forget the RAND Corporation. They've also got The Hoover Institution -- Condoleeza's stomping ground -- , shadowy hedge funds, and The Rothschilds all covered.

Seriously... Do you really believe they'd have the John Birchers on board? After all, they're all members of the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Birchers want the whole lot of the CFR investigated for trying to form a one-world government.

No Bilderbergers though... Obama's people have that covered. And no Skull & Bones men, either... That was William Webster's replacement over at the CIA, appointed by Bush, who was another Skull & Bones man, whereas Webster was *strictly* Psi Upsilon, just like Nelson Rockefeller... who was the Chairman of the CFR.

So, yeah... they have the Rothschilds and the Rockerfellers, but they don't have the Gettys Middle East oil fortune on board. The Gettys prefer to buy locals like Nancy Pelosi and Gavin Newsom, or ideological friends like John Kerry.

(Sheesh. You'd have to be some sort of conspiracy theorist to believe they'd get the Birchers on board!)
posted by markkraft at 7:24 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Damnit, moorooka beat me to it. The original article referenced by DailyKos is The Myth of the Middle by Mark Schmitt.

No third party will ever be viable in American politics without substantial electoral reform. I'm looking forward to the multimillionaire jagoffs behind this albatross learning that.

Maybe that's not the point, though. There's a whiff of the kind of technocratic soft coup that has been pulled off recently in Greece and Italy (so far) - coalitions backed by Very Serious People who are ready to take Very Serious Measures to keep their compatriots in the global aristocracy happy. You know - the standard bullshit austerity measures that slow down every economy they're inflicted on, but somehow always end up further enhancing the relative position of the 1%. That's the essential platform of both of these groups right there. Bullshit austerity for the proles, and let the good times roll for the elites.
posted by jhandey at 7:28 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ooooh! A CIA-linked organization with shadow backing is developing an Internet voting platform to help citizens in a democracy vote on the proper candidate?

Nice! It's like a remake of a classic film updated for the current generation. Good to see them bring some of that expertise home.
posted by formless at 7:47 PM on December 16, 2011


After seeing the fiasco with three parties in the UK, it doesn't seem like we'd gain anything other than the demand for a fourth party. Eventually we could be like the Knesset where the numerous political parties ensure liberal and progressive government. Or perhaps not so much.
posted by humanfont at 7:59 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


With a small adjustment, you have Fallback Approval, a version of Bucklin voting that is also easy to implement with current ballot technology. Vote "Approve", "Second Choice", "Reject" for each candidate.

The trick is to find a way without making a new laws. I would argue that if one state experimentally allowed a split vote, based on the logic of a personal majority rule and the inability to honestly decide between two preferred candidates; and if it passed a court test, then we would have a de facto open primary system with two votes each. This would mimic the new California system where there is an open primary to narrow down to two candidates (no matter which party). Either way would let us vote for the one we can't afford to lose, and one we want to win, as spoiler insurance, and one-person-one-vote is still preserved.
posted by Brian B. at 8:01 PM on December 16, 2011


Arno? Nobody?

...
posted by joe lisboa at 8:26 PM on December 16, 2011


joe lisboa: I followed your link and it definitely looks like a sketchy outfit. I just didn't have anything to add.
posted by msalt at 8:39 PM on December 16, 2011


X-Himy: "And that's the thing about these Third Way type organizations. Is partisanship a problem? It can be when fuckall gets done. Or when some really terrible things get done. I'm a liberal guy, I have beliefs and opinions. And when I see an organization that is simply about bipartisanship for bipartisanship's sake, I start to feel an itch behind my eyes that tells me they are full of shit."

And this creates a further problem, because when we get a candidate that actually does have views from both sides of the traditional political spectrum, nobody takes them seriously because of this already-existing bias against such people and organizations.

Most recently, in the 2009 New Jersey gubernatorial election, there was a third-party candidate, Chris Daggett, that probably could have beat Chris Christie if he was on the Democratic ticket instead of Jon Corzine. (In particular, he wasn't in bed with the unions, but also wasn't trying to abolish them completely. I feel that this would have resonated with the vast majority of voters; NJ politics seem to bring out the absolute worst aspects of both parties.)

During that election, I was unfortunately subjected to conservative NJ political talk radio for about 12 hours a day. I distinctly remember the radio hosts constantly bitching about the "corrupt establishment," and lamenting the lack of good 3rd-party candidates. On the exact day that Chris Daggett started polling well enough to be considered a serious threat to Christie, the radio hosts turned face, called him an election spoiler, turned to ad-hominem attacks against the guy, and pretended that this was the line that they were toting all along – ideological whiplash – true to Tea Party form, those guys never actually supported anybody other than the predetermined Republican candidate. The Daggett smear campaign was swift and harsh, and even though he racked up quite a few endorsements along the way and garnered impressive polling numbers for a late-entry 3rd-party candidate, he ultimately only got a tiny portion of the popular vote, because nobody trusted or wanted to listen to the 3rd-party, even in spite of the fact that Jon Corzine was a terrible candidate who never stood any chance of being reelected.
posted by schmod at 9:07 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would like to vote Araucaria for everything. I get so frustrated hearing people talk about a third party. It's not like we don't have a third party because there's no political will for it - our system just isn't designed to allow it.

Solutions like Approval voting or increasing representation in the House are straightforward, rational, constitutional solutions to making our Democracy work better. I'm confident we'll never see any of them enacted.
posted by heathkit at 10:21 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


AMERICANS ELECT is a particularly rich source of anagrams:
MANACLES RECITE
CARAMEL ENTICES
MANIAC REELECTS
MANATEES CIRCLE
ELECTRIC SEAMAN
SEMANTIC CEREAL
METRICAL SEANCE
CREAMIEST CLEAN
CLEAREST ICEMAN
MESCALINE REACT
CAREEN CLIMATES
SELECT IN CAMERA
REENACTS MALICE
ARTICLES MENACE
A MALICE CENTERS
EL SATANIC CREME
MEET NICE RASCAL

... It all makes sense if you read between the letters.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:36 PM on December 16, 2011 [10 favorites]


A shit-ton of money being poured into a shady organization by rich people who don't want to be identified, ostensibly working on getting a heretofore unknown, unnamed moderate elected, all when the Dem incumbent is riding high in the polls and all of the GOP possible candidates are feces-flinging macaques?

You'd better believe this is a conservative-driven operation. Whether it works by siphoning enough votes from Obama's moderate independents to allofw the formal GOP candidate to win swing states, or by providing a less toxic conservative "Independent" candidate that conservatives and swing independents can rally behind, either way, I'm have no doubt that the real goal is to have Obama lose.

Millions of dollars don't just materialize from grass-roots movements for a candidate that doesn't exist yet.
posted by darkstar at 10:47 PM on December 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


This looks a lot like a setup for Bloomberg. For those of us on the West Coast, who don't read or hear much about him, what's he like?
posted by msalt at 10:54 PM on December 16, 2011


schmod: "tl;dr: If you don't want the current GOP members of the house deciding who gets to be our next president, you really don't want a 3rd-party candidate running right now."

I've looked into this (prompted by the question of what would happen in a 269-269 electoral tie, but the principle's the same). The president in that scenario would not be chosen by the current House, but rather by the 2012 class, who would presumably better reflect the sentiments of the American people. I don't have a strong enough grasp of the numbers to know if an election that produced a House conservative enough to pull off such a coup could also give an electoral plurality to Obama, but it seems unlikely.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:10 PM on December 16, 2011


msalt, he's kind of a strange figure. He has been all over the map in terms of party affiliation, has a jillion dollars, and isn't very ideological. He seems to like to be mayor without having a big program or central idea. He seems to be a good manager.

That said, the point of management mostly seems to be making things more efficient and keeping money in the city. Which is fine except that he doesn't really take notice of the less well-off in this town and he can be rather autocratic.

I'd like to see a really good, smart Democrat running a real campaign with some bigger ambitions for the whole city, but we havent been so great at finding someone good and viable in recent memory. The last talked-about possibility was Weiner and you saw how that worked out.
posted by lackutrol at 11:23 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


voting third party means that the current candidate doesn't represent you enough for you to hold to hold your nose and vote for them, so the worst case scenario is already the reality for that voter.

I envy you if you think this is the worst that it can get.


I'll bite. Things will get worse if I vote for the good cop or the bad cop. Either way, they're both cops. I don't think it is the worst it can get yet, but that doesn't mean that I'm voting for the "good" cop.
posted by dibblda at 12:19 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the biggest problem with this group (and there are many) is that basically all "democratic" decisions can be overrun by an unelected committee. At least with the major parties, there are steps for citizens to organize and have a say that is binding (caucuses, primaries, etc). Not so with this group.

As Rick Hasen has pointed out, the bylaws give the campaign credentials committee a chance to overrule a popular vote and the board of directors a chance to remove without case any or all members of the campaign credentials committee.

Hasen has an op-ed at Politico about the group.
posted by univac at 2:23 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Peter Ackerman: The Junk Bond "Teflon Guy" Behind Egypt's Non-Violent Revolution.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:48 AM on December 17, 2011


Wouldn't that split the Republican vote

Ross Perot VS Clinton VS Bush/Dole. Go hang out with the rabid Republicans and you'll hear blame that Perot split the vote.

A separate from the Republicans Paul/(Ventura?) ticket would seem to do the same as Perot did in the day.

How weak is President Obama to think a 'shadowy millionaire' ticket would take enough Obama votes to make him a 1 term President?
posted by rough ashlar at 5:40 AM on December 17, 2011


"For those tired of Democrat rule and Republican rule, there is now a third option: joint Democrat-Republican rule!

There is a 4th option - get someone in there who Congress would have to get together to override his veto's - if one thinks a Congress working together would be better.

Things will get worse if I vote for the good cop or the bad cop.

Vote'n for evil is still evil - will offend less people.

Remember, Cthulhu for President, why vote for the lesser of two evils?
posted by rough ashlar at 5:45 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


And that's the thing about these Third Way type organizations. Is partisanship a problem?

Perhaps the issue is the Label and not the actual actions of the "2" major labels? On the one side is a quote about the "2" parties - "There is not a dime's bit of difference between them" and on another is to see them as exact opposites, to be "fair and balanced" if one wishes to use a turn of a phrase.

If one doesn't define the problem correctly, that will make it harder to find a workable solution. How much of life is defining the problem wrong then applying the wrong solution?
posted by rough ashlar at 5:56 AM on December 17, 2011


Rocky Anderson's radical third way (the Guardian, December 12, 2011).

Imagine a 2012 election with both former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson's Justice Party and Caesar Bloomberg's Good-Times-For-The-1% organization taking part. How much do you want to bet that if Obama loses, 95% of the resulting fury - especially from the Democratic establishment - would be directed at Anderson rather than Bloomberg?

It's not just that these wannabe pre-Putin-style Russian oligarchs want to advance their political agenda. It's understandable, but it's not just about policy. It's about power. It's that the Very Serious People in America - the media figures and the lobbyists and the go-to economists and all the rest - believe that Caesar Bloomberg or someone like him has a right to run because he's the right kind of person.

I think, trying to pull back and look at things from the perspective of decades, that there is a pattern of increasing elite discomfort with effective participation by the lower orders. With the official spread of "democracy", both inside traditionally democratic nations as well as globally, has come serious - and usually quite effective - efforts to hollow it out, to make it almost a parody of what people have suffered and died for throughout the centuries. The war against trade unionism, the increasing democratic deficit across the developed world, the flood of money into politics, all feeding into widening inequality virtually everywhere - this, unsurprisingly, doesn't make the proletariat happy. And they've been expressing it globally in 2011 - and will do so even more forcefully in 2012.
posted by jhandey at 6:13 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yawn, i'm content if a third party runs : small risks, large pay offs, and more lulz regardless.

Imagine Donald Trump buys himself the presidency with 15% of the vote, thus wrecking America's claim to democracy. I'd lol.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:43 AM on December 17, 2011


I'd lol.

Yeah, that would be hilarious.

From France.
posted by joe lisboa at 8:51 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rocky Anderson was bffs with Mitt Romney.
posted by humanfont at 11:15 AM on December 17, 2011


Thomas Friedman thinks this is wonderful, exciting new idea in leveling the presidential playing field.

He does have the mustasche of understanding, so maybe he knows something we don't, but I think it's more likely instead that this is the most idiotic idea ever. 'Cause that's just the way Tom Friedman rolls.

Jonathan Chait thinks Americans Elect is good for Obama, but bad for America. I think they should offer Ralph Nader a VP position, because Ralphie will run for anything
posted by octobersurprise at 5:13 PM on December 17, 2011


We can’t know who’s behind “Americans Elect,” because we might make fun of them
posted by homunculus at 7:56 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


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