Basically, he's pushing an organization called Americans Elect, which, as near as I can tell, is something like Unity08 version 2.0. Actually, it's more like version 1.1 -- they really haven't upgraded the idea or the technology very much. The organization is promising an on-line convention that will end up nominating a coalition presidential ticket for 2012 that somehow gets on all 50 state ballots. Why?
The goal of Americans Elect is to take a presidential nominating process now monopolized by the Republican and Democratic parties, which are beholden to their special interests, and blow it wide open.Okay, point conceded: the process that determines the Republican Party's nominee for president is totally monopolized by Republicans right now. And, yeah, Democrats control the process by which the Democratic nominee is selected. Perhaps Friedman can explain why it's a problem that a party would determine its own nominee.
Seriously, if you read through the column, there are about a hundred platitudes that can be easily torn down, but that's not what I wanted to write about. I wanted to comment specifically on Americans Elect CEO Elliot Ackerman's claim that
The questions, the priorities, the nominations and the rules will all come from the community, not from two entrenched parties.This statement irks me both as a political scientist and as someone who has participated in party caucuses and conventions in an effort to select candidates for office. How exactly does a party go about nominating candidates and determining planks on a platform? It involves extensive, messy deliberation and coordination among political activists, major donors, some officeholders, party elders, interest group leaders, and others. In other words, it involves the community. That's what a party is. A party is not an alien presence imposing its will on the democratic process. Quite the contrary: a party emerges organically from the democratic process.
Are some moderates left out of these communities? Sure. They have a choice. They can form their own new party, although the track record of those isn't great. They can suck up their objections to the ideological extremists and work within one of the party communities, although that can be frustrating. Or they can stay at home. But they are not somehow more noble because they aren't part of one of the "entrenched parties."