Most people are not familiar with Americans Elect, the third party option for the 2012 election. Americans Elect came into being with a shout out on the web, where it posed as the first internet political party.
The signing up process was to be done online. So were the nominating procedures. It sounded great, as if things were moving forward in America, where people are enthralled by online activities.
While it was a great idea, Americans Elect never really got off the ground. That was because it was structurally flawed. As a result, few people signed up, and the party never found a viable candidate to run for the presidency. As Americans Elect is now in its death throes, it is important to look at the major mistakes made by Americans Elect so that future third parties might learn from it.
● The first and foremost flaw that has killed Americans Elect is that it is not a political party.
Like a Super PAC, it is registered as a social welfare agency and is supported by secret donors. This immediately puts it in league with the likes of the billionaire Koch brothers, whose Americans for Prosperity created the Tea Party. They did that by setting up the thirty-two founding websites that got the Tea Party off the ground. They were so successful that no sensible person would run as an alternative candidate where the Koch’s have a Tea Party representative. And now, with the Koch brothers backing Romney, it’s a billionaires’ grand romp for the presidency. This all leads to the second mistake:
● Americans Elect jumped in the political process in order to play Penny Ante when the game was Texas Hold'em No Limit. The millionaires who founded the party only put in enough money to run their website and petition the states to get onto the ballot. Soon, this became a joke inside the Beltway surrounding D.C. People asked, “How could Americans Elect simply leave you hanging to raise your own funds? What did they think you are, Donald Trump?” This leads to another problem:
● The third flaw that has defeated Americans Elect is that it is not user friendly. In order to sign up, someone has to go through a series of questions that date to one’s adolescence. It’s easy to put in a wrong answer and get booted out. Then, you have to start all over. If they wanted a viable political party they would have allowed a person to sign in with their gmail.com or their Facebook accounts. But no—dozens of invasive questions. And that is what leads to the next problem:
● The fourth flaw is that Americans Elect is downright scary. These folks have purchased
all the identifying data that the major credit agencies use to keep track of you. So they have every American’s personal data on file. That is why, when you sign up, the program might
ask you about your ex-husband, who lived on such-and-such street. Excuse me, but the type of person you want to attract to a third party is one who is tired of invasive government. No doubt Americans Elect lost half their potential membership due the paranoid factor—people are afraid that big government knows too much already.
● The fifth flaw is that Americans Elect had no purpose, no political philosophy, and only one
goal—to run a third party candidate for president. It takes more to get people roused up. You have to appeal to people’s convictions to steal them away from the Republican Party. And you have to be super rational to steal potential geek voters away from Obama. But Americans Elect neither evoked one’s convictions nor piqued one’s rationality. It was the new kid on the block with a sign that read “Just Say No” to the other guy. Big deal.
Some folks may say they do not like either Obama or Romney and that they would vote for a
third party candidate if they had a chance. But Americans are not willing to go very far out of
their way to do that. Voting must look like a convenience but at the same time have a purpose.
Americans Elect had the potential to make voting easy, but at every turn, it engaged in fatally flawed practices. Starting out as a Super PAC and not as a legitimate political party—that put their intentions in doubt. And they did not raise money to support potential candidates. They also made it hard to sign up. They over-indulged in people’s personal data. And they seemed to be without a legitimate purpose—such that Americans Elect was the change that you simply could not believe in.