Americans Elect is a third-party group trying to elect a presidential candidate on the platform of doing everything President Obama has tried to do, except maybe suck up more to rich people and provide better high-end train service between Washington and New York. It invested millions and millions of dollars to establish a national voting process to find a candidate. Nobody showed up. Americans Elect decided to extend the deadline. Nobody showed up again. Now they’re trying to figure out what to do.
Step one in the comeback plan is to make it perfectly clear that Americans Elect has in no way failed. Official statement by CEO Kahlil Byrd:
Through the efforts of thousands of staffers, volunteers, and leadership, Americans Elect has achieved every stated operational goal. Despite these efforts, as of today, no candidate has reached the national support threshold required to enter the “Americans Elect Online Convention” this June.
Americans Elect has succeeded completely! The candidates have failed, in the sense that the millions of Americans clamoring for them have somehow not voted for them. Byrd proceeds to argue that this candidate failure should not distract from the fact that America is dying for an Americans Elect candidacy. (“There is, however, an almost universal desire among delegates, leadership and millions of Americans who have supported AE to see a credible candidate emerge from this process.”) The phrasing — almost universal — does make me curious: Who out there is supporting Americans Elect but does not wish to see a credible candidate emerge?
Paul Krugman rubs it in to his New York Times "Op-Ed" colleagues without naming them:
... there exists in America a small class of professional centrists, whose stock in trade is denouncing the extremists in both parties and calling for a middle ground. And this class cannot, as a professional matter, admit that there already is a centrist party in America, the Democrats — that the extremism they decry is all coming from one side of the political fence. Because if they admitted that, they’d just be moderate Democrats, with no holier-than-thou pedestal to stand on.
Americans Elect was created to appeal to this class of professional centrists — which meant that it was doomed to go nowhere.
If you’re wondering who Krugman could possibly be talking about here, some of them have mustaches.
I do think there is a general desire out there for a third-party candidate. It’s just that the desire isn’t ideological. Lots of Americans think the parties both stink and have little understanding of what the parties actually believe. The idea that there’s a third-party movement rooted in any set of policy goals is silly, and the notion that the there’s a third-party movement rooted in Tom Friedman’s particular policy goals is completely insane. But, as Ross Perot’s nutty campaigns showed, a generalized screw-the-bastards campaign could surely pick up some support.