Report from Americans Elect panel discussion

In late February, representatives from AMERICANS•ELECT 2012 held a presentation at the LBJ Auditorium. This organization is touting a new way to nominate the president, so we see it as a potentially important political development. In mid-February, we sent our members an eblast about this event. Several Coffee Partiers attended, and we asked Ed Kopas and Al Giles to send us a report.

Ed and Al found that Americans Elect (AE) was set up to create another way for The People to nominate a U.S. president through a secure, online convention. Registered voters define the critical issues, choose the candidates, and nominate their choice for president. This is the first time in U.S. history where a directly nominated ticket will be on the ballot in all 50 states. AE stipulates that their process is nonpartisan and independent of the major parties. This will produce a balanced ticket, since Americans Elect finalists choose a running mate from party other than their own. Anonymous donations are accepted from individuals only, provided they are not candidates for office. Funds are not accepted from special interests, lobbyists, corporations, labor unions, PAC’s, or political parties.

Benefits:

  • Provides a way of nomination other than the political parties. This may encourage voters that are dissatisfied with the current system to get involved.
  • Selecting candidates is done strictly through the Internet, thus truly involving the individual.
  • Non-partisan — candidates must take a pledge to govern without regard to partisan interests, and running mates must be chosen from a party other than presidential candidate’s own party.
  • Shakes up the “status quo”.

Concerns:

  • Donations are anonymous. Ed and Al (and many others, including Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune) are asking why the identity of all donors cannot be revealed.
  • Despite this concern, there appears to be little chance of individuals influencing the election of candidates to their “special interest” by donating. Candidates are ultimately chosen by individual votes of individuals, and a major contributor has no way of knowing if his/her candidate will ultimately be chosen.
  • The AE nomination process has little direct effect on money in politics. AE candidates may have no intention of cleaning up the money problem, so this does not directly address the mission of the Coffee Party USA.
  • Since the people most likely to take the time to become involved in AE and their online process are disaffected voters (Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, etc.), there may be a tendency to influence the election of one party or the other and ‘throw” the election, i.e. Ross Perot, and Ralph Nader in 2000. Ed and Al expressed their concern that AE could be disproportionately influenced by zealots and highly partisan folks from either side instead of creating an environment where deliberation is supported.

Since this is still new, we intend to watch AE to see what happens. If nothing else, AE may spur discussion about the status quo and provide a channel to those who are dissatisfied with the major political parties.

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