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Get Ready for Candidate No. 3

The Americans Elect gambit.

Feb 27, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 23 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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“I don’t think our political leaders have gotten any better or worse along the way,” said Dennis Blair, an Americans Elect board member and the former director of national intelligence in the Obama White House, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “I think the system, as it’s developed, has made them do things which are unworthy of them and certainly unworthy of the country.”

But what, or who, changed the system? An introductory video on the Americans Elect website shows two groups of protesters in silhouette, one red and one blue, yelling nonsensically at each other, having been “fired up” by their respective parties’ nominees. These, presumably, are the extremists who hold our politicians hostage.

To illustrate what they deplore, Ackerman points to the 2010 Republican Senate primary in Delaware, where conservatives elevated Christine O’Donnell to snatch the GOP nomination from the more moderate congressman Mike Castle. O’Donnell went on to lose to the Democrat, Chris Coons, in a race most observers believed Castle would have won handily. If a process like Americans Elect had existed at the state level—as Ackerman says is the plan for 2014 and beyond—Castle might have run and won as an independent.

This aversion to upstart conservative or liberal challengers makes sense when you consider that Christine Todd Whitman, moderate Republican par excellence, is on the board of Americans Elect. And many others attached to the project, like Democrat Les Francis and Republican Mark McKinnon, represent centrist factions that are no longer strong in the major parties. The increasing polarization of our politics may or may not be bad for the country, but it’s done a number on plenty of careers.

With its sophisticated operation and tech savvy, Americans Elect may have more staying power than third parties past. In the best of circumstances for Ackerman and company, this grand experiment with online, open-source political organizing could reorient American politics toward the stable, moderate center. 

Or “the people” could nominate Evan Bayh or Jon Huntsman and give him enough votes to tip the election to the Republican or the Democrat. Or “the people” could nominate a Ron Paul or a Dennis Kucinich or a Sarah Palin.

The choice is yours!

Michael Warren is a reporter at The Weekly Standard.

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