Sunday, July 24, 2011

Here comes Friedman's radical center

Tom Friedman's latest column is such an easy target, I hesitate to comment on it. But I've heard from some folks who seem to be intrigued by the idea he's hawking, so I feel I must say something.

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."


~JP~ said...

I agree with your analysis, and I also think that this is an effort that's taking on too many disparate endeavors:
1) They attempt to radically reinvent the process, which quite simply isn't going to happen as a result of a fringe movement.

2) It seeks to incorporate the current two-party system, claiming that a candidate has to pick a running mate from the opposite party. But if the point is really to cut through and dismantle parties that no longer serve the needs of American Elect supporters (at least, that's their claim), then why are they talking about pairing Republicans and Democrats? If the point is to offer an alternative process/party/ideology about government, then relying on the same old categorizations seems rather silly.

Anonymous said...

Coffee Party, No Labels, and others are all (Soros-funded) attempts to water down the right... We'll have none of it... In NH it's the Live Free or Die Alliance website which has nothing to do with the real LFOD group out in Keene.