Monday, April 30, 2012

Roundhouse Roundup: Who Will Carry the Americans Elect Banner?

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
April 29, 2012

Just a few months ago, a new political organization called Americans Elect seemed to have establishment     partisans from both sides worried.

Could this mysterious upstart group with the stated purpose of involving ordinary citizens in the presidential nominating process tap into the frustrations of those fed up with hyper-partisanship and actually blast through the gridlock?

Could the promise of Americans Elect’s Internet-based system launch a political revolution that would cast out the special-interest weasels and the uncompromising zealots who make up the bases of the major parties?

Well, six months out from the general election and only days before the Americans Elect nominating process is set to begin, it sure doesn’t feel like anything momentous is about to happen.

Americans Elect has been successful in getting on the general election ballot in 25 states — including New Mexico — and more are bound to follow.

But there have been well-publicized problems with Americans Elect. As the Washington Post recently noted, the online voting was supposed to start earlier this month, but AE postponed the online voting until May because of anemic participation.

Many critics, including AE front-runner Buddy Roemer, have complained about a lack of transparency, specifically the group not disclosing its contributors. (It’s classified under the tax code as a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” group).

Some don’t like the fact that AE has a Council of Druids — actually called the “Candidate Certification Committee” — that must approve any candidate selected by the participants.

No, not THAT Buddy!
And some have complained about the clunky, hard-to-navigate $9 million website and the complex nomination process.

But the main question is who’s going to be the candidate of this uprising of moderates?

Of the declared Americans Elect contenders, in first place so far, with less than 4,000 supporters (as of Thursday afternoon), is former Louisiana Gov. Roemer. He’s best known recently for being one of those Republican presidential candidates like former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who was snubbed by media companies and left out of the Republican debates last year.

Laurence Kotlikoff
Before that he was best known for losing the GOP primary in Louisiana 20 some years ago to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. In second place is former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson with just over 2,400 supporters.

In a distant third, with 1,498 supporters, is some guy named Laurence Kotlikoff, who is an economics professor at Boston University. On his campaign website, he touts The Purple Tax Plan, The Purple Healthcare Plan, The Purple Energy Plan, etc. Maybe he’s going to choose Prince to be his running mate.

I signed up to participate in Americans Elect, though that does not mean I’d actually vote for the eventual nominee in November.

I answered about 160 of the 200 questions in the website’s mind-numbing and tedious questionnaire before I couldn’t take it any more. Jason Linkens of The Huffington Post recently confessed he was only able to get through 43 questions “before I started to have existential worries about my own mortality.”

Are you ready for the Blake bandwagon?
According to my answers, my best candidate match — someone with whom I allegedly agree with 62 percent of the time — was one Blake Ashby. 

No, I’d never heard of him either. He had a whopping 188 supporters on the AE site.

I found a campaign website for him and learned he’s the president and co-founder of a medical software company in St. Louis. I read his platform and agree with many but not all of his points.

The first thing Ashby says on his site is, “The Americans Elect candidate isn’t going to win this election.” Hey, something we really agree on.