Monday, August 13, 2012

What we can learn from Americans Elect

Americans Elect was a failed attempt to create a third national party.

We can learn a lot from it's failure.

Let's start with a bit more about them.   They claimed to be a non-partisan, non -profit organization, not covered by the FEC's political committees rules.  As such, they can't accept money from a candidate or candidate committee, nor donate funds to them, nor can they advocate for or against any issue.   It can only get signatures to put people on the ballot.

They were internet based, and tried to elect just the President (and Vice President), not other offices.

They set up a bunch of delegates and they drafted 52 potential candidates.  Then people voted on those candidates to see who would make it to a 'run off' election, then to see who would be their nominee.   To be a successful nominee, their rules required at least 1,000 votes from each of 10 states, for 10,000 votes minimum.   If the person had not held one of 12 specific jobs, they would need 5,000 votes from 10 states, for 50,000 minimum.  But no candidate gathered enough support to make it to their primary ballot.  

They were well funded with $22 million dollars.

Why did they fail so badly they couldn't get a single candidate to qualify for their run off election? 

They started with a candidate for Presidency.   That's the big game - it's kind of like someone trying out for the New York Yankees without ever having played ball at College or for a minor league game.  You start small and work your way up, not the other way around.

They were running against an incumbent president.  Incumbents win most of the time.   This is a stupid idea, you want to start your political party with the best chance, not the worst chance.   Worse, people think third party candidates are run as 'spoilers'.  Doing so against an incumbent makes it look far more like a spoiler.  A 'spoiler' candidate is run without the real desire or expectation of winning - you are just trying to steal off enough votes from your enemy so that the main stream opponent can win.  I.E.  some people think that Ralph Nader did this in the 2000 election, helping Bush to win.   Worse, they did not reveal their funding source.

They did NOT run any other candidate.  Being president hard enough if you have supporters in Congress.  You need people in Congress to put forth laws you agree with, people that will support you.  Much of the Democrat's complaints against the GOP over the past four years is that the GOP voted down laws they liked because the Democrats tried to get them passed.   Obamacare, which the GOP hates with a vengeance is basically taken from a Republican.

They were plagued by bureaucratic software problems.   Some people claimed delegates couldn't vote because of their web based software and security systems.

By law, they could not promote any ideology.  Political parties are all about belief. "None of the above" is not a belief, it doesn't get people to come out and vote.  If that's all you think, then you stay home and don't vote.

So let's talk about how to do this the RIGHT way.

  1. Start with a lower office and run multiple candidates - preferably not against incumbents.  Say five senators and 20 congressmen.   If you can win multiple times at the lower levels, then you can talk about the presidency.  But if you don't have at least two Senators and at least three congressmen, you do not have the national support you need to win a presidency, let alone get stuff done after you win.
  2. Once you narrow it down to a some candidates, go with a real world primary.  Add in a virtual half NEXT year, with some kind of password given out to people that attend last year's real world primary.
  3. PROMOTE AN IDEOLOGY.  It's not that hard to pick one that most Americans like, just go for polling.   Because there are some real centrist ideas that people feel Americans political parties ignore.  Leave out anything that does not get at least 55% of citizens agree with.  Avoid the controversial stuff like abortion and gay marriage, instead stick to the practical stuff that most Americans agree with - fiscal 'conservative' with liberal 'social' programs.  Throw in a careful blend of moderatcy to pay for the social stuff, and you got a solid platform.  By moderatcy, I don't mean 'half way between liberal and conservative', but instead I mean doing things moderately without going to extremes.

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