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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Here’s TAP Co-Editor Bob Kuttner’s diagnosis of Americans Elect: “a wrongheaded ideology, married to a misguided diagnosis of what ails America, yoked to a perverse politics. Just what you’d expect of hedge-fund billionaires meddling in electoral reform.”

In a recent Huffpo piece, Bob Kuttner delivered a sharp and well-deserved back of the hand to the latest and biggest fad in pseudo-populist “Don’t Vote for Obama” politics (dressed up, like most of these things are, as grass-roots citizen participation). As he said:

A well-funded, faux-reformist group known as Americans Elect is promoting a third party presidential candidacy and anticipates qualifying its candidate to be on the ballot in nearly all states. It is doing this by collecting millions of petition signatures, over 2.2 million so far, taking advantage of voter frustration with political blockage in Washington. The actual candidate will be decided later, by Internet Convention.
Despite the superficial populism, just about everything about this exercise is misguided…

Kuttner explains:

The quest for a centrist third party alternative misstates why Washington is blocked. The storyline is one of symmetrical extremism and refusal to compromise on the part of Republicans and Democrats alike. Says Americans Elect’s website, “you have the power to help break gridlock and change politics as usual. No special interest. No agendas. Country before party.”
But as anyone who hasn’t spent the last three decades on Jupiter must know, Democrats have spent the era since Jimmy Carter moving to the middle of the spectrum on a broad range of pocketbook and national security issues. Only on tolerance issues has the presidential party remained progressive.
So we already have a centrist party. It’s called the presidential Democratic Party….
…Republicans during this period have both moved further to the right ideologically, and have become more obstructionist tactically. They have refused to pass routine legislation such as extension of national debt authority. Ordinary bills are now subjected to Senate filibusters. If they don’t like a federal agency like the consumer financial protection bureau or the National Labor Relations Board, they won’t confirm its nominees. If they don’t like duly enacted legislation like the Affordable Care Act, they vow to destroy it. The Supreme Court has become a partisan organ.
This pattern of extremist obstruction by a major party is something unknown in American politics since the pre-Civil War battles over slavery…

O.K., so Americans Elect is clearly peddling the anti-Democratic “false equivalency” snake-oil. Kuttner then asks the obvious question: who’s behind it?

…The thing is funded mostly by hedge fund gazillionaires. In fact, the chief operating officer of Americans Elect, Elliot L. Ackerman, got a $30 million dollar gift from his father, Wall Streeter Peter Ackerman, to finance this exercise in Internet populism. Thanks, Dad.
Note that this hedge-fund-spawned third party is most likely to attract self-financing billionaires. This is one hell of an exercise in the people taking back their politics.

Now as everyone in the Washington beltway village knows, the effort is widely suspected to be a tool of Michael Blumberg’s and the likelihood that any other candidate who might harm the Republicans instead of Obama will get the nod is totally undermined by the fact that the hedge-fund insiders running this scam have given themselves the explicit right to override the votes of the masses of “citizen-voters” who participate if the voting doesn’t go the way they want and to anoint someone else they consider a more “acceptable” centrist.
As Richard Hassen noted in a recent Politico investigative report:

the [nomination] process can, in fact, be overruled by the small board of directors who organized the group. This board is to have unfettered discretion in picking a committee that can boot the presidential ticket chosen by voters if it is not sufficiently “centrist” and even dump the committee if it doesn’t like the direction it’s heading.

Hassen provides the details:

Under the group’s bylaws, the committee, along with the three other standing committees, serves at the pleasure of the board — and committee members can be removed without cause by the board. The board members were not elected by delegates; they chose themselves in the organization’s articles of incorporation.
The bottom line: If Americans Elect is successful, millions of people will have united to provide ballot access not for a candidate they necessarily believe in – like a Ross Perot or Ralph Nader — but for a candidate whose choice could be shaped largely by a handful of self-appointed leaders.
Despite the veneer of democracy created by having “delegates” choose a presidential candidate through a series of Internet votes, the unelected, unaccountable board of Americans Elect, funded by secret money, will control the process for choosing a presidential and vice presidential candidate — who could well appear on the ballot in all 50 states.

Kuttner nicely sums up the whole noxious package as follows:

So we have wrongheaded ideology, married to a misguided diagnosis of what ails America, yoked to a perverse politics. Just about what you’d expect of hedge-fund billionaires meddling in electoral reform.

That pretty much says it all. But, just for the heck of it let’s make absolutely sure we have all the details completely straight in our minds. An unelected cabal of plutocrats has invested millions of dollars (collected from a handful of carefully concealed secret donors) into a completely unaudited private balloting process whose results they have explicitly given themselves the right to casually throw in the garbage if they don’t like them in order to handpick the candidate they prefer.
Wow. Where did these electoral Einsteins ever manage to find the inspiration for this absolutely awesome and breathtaking innovation in “grass roots democracy”? Albania, maybe? A Central American Banana Republic in the 1930’s? An unpublished novel of George Orwell?
Damned if I know. But just for fun TDS readers can go ahead vote for their choice between these three alternatives. But just remember, if I don’t like your choice, I can always just crumple it up and throw it in the trash. That’ll give you a head start in understanding how your vote can get treated by Americans Elect.

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