Are you so disgusted with the Democratic and Republican parties that you long for another choice on your 2012 presidential ballot? Of course, there will be fringe parties like the Greens and Libertarians, but would you like to see a centrist ticket with a real chance to win?
Good news! A new group called Americans Elect (AE) intends to select a presidential nominee by a nationwide on-line vote and put him on the ballot in all fifty states. The organization, headquartered on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, was founded by mutli-millionaire Peter Ackerman (formerly of Drexel Burnham Lambert) and has 148 employees. AE has already raised over $20 million from just 50 wealthy backers (1). Its board includes former NJ Gov. Christie Whitman and former FBI Director William Webster. NY Times columnist Tom Friedman, who says that the major party candidates are not confronting the real issues, actively supports the group.
AE is now rounding up millions of signatures on petitions to establish AE as a recognized party in all states, so that its ticket will appear on all state ballots. Over 2 million signatures are already in hand, and about a million more will be needed.
Anyone can register as a “delegate” to the AE “virtual convention” in June of next year on the AE website below. In the first round of voting, you can nominate and vote for any legally qualified American to be President of the United States. (2) The top six candidates in this round will be asked to choose a nominee for Vice President, who must not be a member of the same political party, to assure a “bi-partisan ticket.” Then delegates will vote among the six tickets; if any one ticket obtains a majority, it will be certified as that of the AE Party for state ballots. (Otherwise, there will be run-off among the top three, and if necessary another run-off between the top two, tickets to secure a majority.)
Although most democracies in the world have more than two parties with real clout, the history of third party presidential campaigns in the US is not encouraging. Since the Civil War, every president has been either a Democrat or a Republican, and only once did any other party even finish second. (3) The last third-party candidate to receive any electoral votes was Alabama Gov. George Wallace (American Independent), who garnered 46 of them in 1968. Ross Perot, who spent about $63 million of his own money in 1992, took 19% of the popular vote nationwide, but no electoral votes. Our “winner takes all” method of awarding electoral votes is especially disadvantageous to new parties.
Given the long odds against victory, I doubt that any prominent people will participate in the AE Final Six run-off. The requirement that the candidates for president and vice-president be from different parties will effectively prevent AE from endorsing one of the major party tickets. (4) Some AE supporters are touting NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg as an independent presidential candidate, but he has said he is not interested, and I believe him. A more likely nominee would Texas Rep. Ron Paul (whose supporters have the tech savvy to game the AE nominating process), but accepting the AE nomination would put his son Senator Rand Paul (R, KY) in an impossible dilemma, so I doubt that even he would accept.
Somebody is going to win the AE nomination, but he probably will not be a strong candidate, and there is no reason to believe that he will be a centrist. The AE nominee will not win, but just might siphon off enough votes from a major-party ticket to swing some close states the other way as Ralph Nader did in 2000. He just might be back!
Gerald S Glazer
(1) Third Wheel in the New Republic, Nov. 17, 2011, page 8.
(3) In 1912 Former President Theodore Roosevelt ran on the Progressive Party (“Bullmoose”) ticket and finished between NJ Gov. Woodrow Wilson and then President William Howard Taft.
(4) Having a vice president from another party was tried in 1796 and 1864, and turned out badly both times.
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