Bootstrapping a New Political Party: Americans Elect

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:

  1. They are going to choose their candidate using Internet voting.
  2. 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).
  3. 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…

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3 Responses to Bootstrapping a New Political Party: Americans Elect

  1. Alon says:

    Interesting concept. It appears this party is engineered not around principles or values, but sheer opportunism to appeal to as many voters as possible. Straight out, this strikes us as disdainful. We would like to elect moral people operating on principles and beliefs. However, coming from a country with many political parties, I can see an upside to a “crowdsourced political platform”. You see, although there are many parties here (at least in comparison to the 2 in the States), many people feel they are giving their vote to a party that at the end of the day doesn’t really represent them, their views wants and needs. Perhaps by giving people a real ability to help shape the platform (I’m not talking about simple surveys here, something bigger – wisdom of the crowds and social based tools should be used) democracy as we know it might evolve and improve.

  2. ancsikancsik says:

    With regard to proportional representation, that’s definitely a good target for easing our way out of the two party system. I’d actually take aim at proportional assignments for Representatives over the Senate, both as a means of easing into the system and because the current district-based system is pathetic. Have you ever looked at the outlines of the congressional districts? They never make an sense, because they’re drawn (and continually redrawn) along lines meant to force just enough voters from each party into the district as to ensure that district will always elect the same party, thereby minimizing the number of swing districts. Additionally, proportionality seems like a more logical thing to start in the part of Congress which was already meant to be based on proportionality. Of course, have fun getting the severely bi-partisan Congress to change to a system which would give a third party a real chance at gaining power.

  3. oldgulph says:

    btw

    In 2012, The National Popular Vote bill could guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

    The bill would take effect when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes– enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). All the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

    The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for president. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

    The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in AR, CT, DE, DC, ME, MI, NV, NM, NY, NC, and OR, and both houses in CA, CO, HI, IL, NJ, MD, MA ,RI, VT, and WA . The bill has been enacted by DC, HI, IL, NJ, MD, MA, VT, and WA. These 8 jurisdictions possess 77 electoral votes– 29% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

    http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

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