I just read about an attempt to create a new political party in the US, called the Americans Elect (AE). As we all know, US politics is dominated by the two major parties. We’ve complained about the lack of choice for decades, maybe centuries. We’ve also repeatedly tried to get third parties elected, but such parties generally turn out to be minor disruptions. AE is different from past attempts in a few interesting ways:
- They are going to choose their candidate using Internet voting.
- The presidential candidate must choose a member of the opposite party as his or her running mate (e.g. A Democrat must choose a Republican). The idea is to create a ticket that will appeal to centrists. Choosing an independent as a running mate will also be allowed (e.g. a Republican can choose an independent).
- The platform will be decided using online surveys.
While I really like the idea of the primary election being run online, I’m not so sure about the other two ideas. The second point seems to be largely premised on the idea that candidates already have an affiliation with one of the two major parties. But if you’re going to run as the AE candidate, doesn’t that mean you’re not affiliated with one of the two major parties?
Putting party designation aside, the important thing is what will an AE candidate actually stand for? Presumably, the priorities will be well-matched when compared to those of AE voters. It’s great to see that more democratic processes are being used, but what will an AE candidate actually stand for? At this point, it seems quite nebulous. Doesn’t it seem odd that a political party not have a basic set of principles, values, or whatever you want to call them? I guess you could might call “being in the middle” their shtick, but that doesn’t seem a real basis for a political party to me.
Call me naive, but I like to believe issues actually matter. In that case, why would you setup a party that is designed to shift its position depending on the political winds of a particular time and place?
Like I said, it’s cool that AE is using the Internet to try to disrupt the political process, and make it more democratic. We could definitely use more of this; however, I’m a bit skeptical as to whether a new political party is the right vehicle to make democracy work better and give people more choices.
If we’re serious about creating more choices in US elections, we should have representatives based on proportion, not regions. Basically, if one of the minor parties scores 15% of the vote nationally, they would be given ~15% of the representatives in Congress, even if the party didn’t win a majority in any single region.
Of course, the Constitution was designed with an emphasis on regional-representation, which I’m not convinced is a bad thing. Maybe we could amend the Senate to use proportional representation. That way, we would still have the House remain region based. I’ve always hated that Wyoming (pop. 544k) gets the same number of Senators as California (pop. 36,962k, roughly 70x Wyoming’s population). I know the Senate came about as a compromise to please the small states (by population) in the early republic, but the solution they came up with seems more like a complete win for the small states, because the Senate can block just block legislations that small states don’t like. Grrr…