John Heilemann looks at the
embarrassing waste of time and money serious political organization Americans Elect:
And so the ultimate viability of the Americans Elect ticket will depend on the quality of the ticket it puts together. Over the past months, Byrd and his colleagues have been meeting quietly with prospective candidates. The names that have been floated are a screamingly predictable bunch of moderates from both parties [bold mine-DL]: Lamar Alexander, Chuck Hagel, and Jon Huntsman from the Republican column; Evan Bayh, Joe Lieberman, and Bob Kerrey. Add to that Mike Bloomberg, plus a handful of business leaders such as Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and you get a sense, however imperfect, of where Americans Elect may be headed.
There is space in the political debate for a decent showing by an independent candidate, but the maddening thing about Americans Elect, like the equally pointless Unity ’08 before it, is that the people organizing it seem to have no idea what alienates voters from the major party candidates. “Centrist” pundits, pollsters, and politicians believe that the answer to massive public disgust with “centrist” policies is to redouble their commitment to all of the least popular “centrist” positions, which inevitably means adopting unpopular moderate-to-liberal positions on immigration, corporatist views on economics, and hawkishness on foreign policy. This sort of “centrism” thinks that disaffected voters are clamoring for an agenda that in no way threatens any part of the status quo.
The extraordinary thing about the obliviousness of professional “centrists” is that they are dedicated to organizing a third-party alternative with no apparent awareness that every remotely successful third-party alternative began as a more radical version of one of the two established parties. Perot’s challenge was a bit different, but even Perot appealed to the constituencies ignored by Bush and Clinton by making their issues his own, especially popular discontent over NAFTA. By contrast, Americans Elect is an organization dedicated to the proposition that Thomas Friedman has his finger on the pulse of America.