For the last year, there's been increasing talk about a project - called Americans Elect - that will seek to nominate a third major candidate for the presidency. More specifically, they hope to nominate a ticket that includes a presidential candidate from one party and a veep from the other.
Beyond that, Americans Elect has no platform. They stand for nothing, other than the obvious notion that politics in DC is broken and their solution is to wave their arms wildly at both parties. But, with huge funding from prominent and not-so-prominent billionaires (mostly hedge-fund managers), they appear to have the organizational muscle to make it happen.
They're already on the ballot in Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Michigan and Nevada. They've turned in 1.6 million signatures in California. And now they're starting to collect signatures in Oregon. From Jeff Mapes at the O:
Canvassers for the group popped up in Eugene last week and will start collecting signatures in Portland this week, said Ileana Wachtel, a spokeswoman for the group.
"This is the right time for a three-horse race" in next fall's presidential election, said Wachtel, arguing that voters are looking for a centrist, bipartisan alternative to the Democratic and Republican candidates. Her group will need to collect 21,804 valid signatures to make the Oregon ballot.
I share their view that our politics are broken. But I disagree that the problem is that elected officials are acting as tough advocates for their views (i.e. "partisanship").
Rather, I believe that our politics are broken because we've allowed corporate money to swamp the voice of the people; because we insist on anti-democratic traditions (like the filibuster) that make our institutions unresponsive to election outcomes; and because on too many issues (largely financial ones) there's a DC/NY "consensus" from the self-appointed smart set that ignores what's best for the middle class and Main Street.
Unlike a lot of my Democratic friends, I happen to like third parties. In general, I think democracy works best when the people have lots of good and meaningful choices.
But Americans Elect doesn't look to be offering a good and meaningful choice. They're offering up a bumper sticker - and suggesting that we can fix what's wrong with America by simply electing someone (almost certainly a charismatic celebrity) who has disdain for strongly-held opinions (on both sides).
They seem to suggest that we don't have hard choices to make; that the choices are easy, and it's just meaningless partisanship (blue/red tribalism) getting in the way. As if the solution is, like Rodney King, to cry plaintively "Can't we all get along?" and then everything would be magically fixed by splitting the difference between the two parties.
I, for one, will not be signing their petition. I will, however, be watching them very closely.