Hmm. It appears that a group called Americans Elect is making a serious aim to put a third national candidate on the ballot in November. They look fairly well-funded:

I get a strong feeling of deja-vu every time this sort of thing comes up. Are these people really so naive? Independent candidates sound sooooooo attractive, until you have to take a close look at one. Then the luster tends to fade pretty fast.

First let’s get this out of the way: I am by most definitions a centrist. I have issues where I agree with the Democrats, issues where I agree with the Republicans, and issues where I disagree with both. Since my first election in 1984, I have voted for Democrats and Republicans in almost equal numbers, and third party candidates on occasion. In 2008 I voted for John McCain (R) but will in all likelihood vote for Barack Obama (D) in 2012. I am the very definition of a “swing voter.” So you would think with all that, I would love this “Americans Elect” idea.

But I don’t. Not only do I think it’s unlikely to elect a President, but I think it’s unlikely to produce a good one even if they do succeed.

It is all well and good for someone to say “the two parties don’t represent me.” The “Americans Elect” folks point out that 80% of Americans would vote for a third-party candidate if it was the right candidate. But there’s the rub: finding that “right” candidate. There’s where it breaks down, because while most people consider themselves independent to some extent, agreement starts to break down once you start looking at things issue-by-issue.

For example, I know plenty of people who don’t like the Republicans because they feel that Republicans are much too conservative–and people who don’t like Republicans because they feel Republicans are nowhere near conservative enough. I know people who don’t like Democrats because they find them too liberal, but others who don’t like them because they consider Democrats nowhere near liberal enough. I know Republicans who think their party is too conservative on social issues, and Democrats who think their party is too liberal on social issues. Get any of these people in the same room together, and none of these people will likely agree much with each other.

This is because “left” and “right” and “liberal” and “conservative” are much too broad to describe anything concrete. When you start answering specific questions you get in trouble:

What if you are in favor of gay marriage, think schools should make birth control available to students, think abortion is immoral and should be more restricted than it is now, support the war in Afghanistan, think the US should make it more difficult for foreign goods and services to be imported here, think the US should take a more active military role in opposing dictatorships abroad, think taxes should be raised on the wealthy and on large corporations, think the environment is important but we have the wrong priorities on environmental protection, think global warming and CO2 should be the least of our environmental concerns, favor decriminalizing drugs, think gun ownership is admirable and should be encouraged, think everyone should be required to carry health insurance, think government should pay for everyone’s education all the way through college, and think prayer and the teaching of Creationism in the public schools should be left up to local school districts and not a national issue? Let me tell you, it is possible to hold all those ideas in your head at once, and be a person of principle. And I guess that would make you a “centrist” or “independent.”

But guess what? If another person feels exactly the opposite of you on all those issues, they are “centrists” or “independents” too–but they will not agree with you on much of anything. Neither one of you will necessarily be unprincipled or unintelligent or uninformed, although there will be ideologues who accuse you both of it. But one thing is highly unlikely: that there can be any candidate who can make both of you happy. And if either of you gets a candidate you’re completely happy with, odds are good that a majority of people won’t be happy.

This is because there is no “center” in politics except a certain sweet spot–or let’s call it the “sour spot”–where the majority of people are not particularly happy but are, most of the time, not terribly unhappy.

The system as we have it works because it pretty much forces everybody to compromise. And in truth, entirely aside from ideology, both political parties are very good at finding ways to be popular enough on some issues, and not-unpopular on enough other issues, to get elected. When voting, most people almost invariably vote for whatever or whoever makes them least-unhappy at the moment. So as nice as it sounds to say “I’m not tied to any political party and I want a candidate who feels the same way!” you’ll likely stop feeling that way the minute you get that candidate who, exactly like you, doesn’t think of herself as tied to any party either, but who turns out not be anything like what you thought you wanted.

There is no definable “center.” It doesn’t exist. To paraphrase a great aphorism: you can make all of the people happy some of the time, some of the people happy all of the time, but you cannot make all of the people happy all of the time. But I don’t think even that fits: it’s more like, “You can make about half the people happy about half the time, if you’re lucky. If you do you get elected, and if you don’t, you don’t.” That’s the way politics really works.

(This item cross-posted to Dean’s World.)

Dean Esmay, Guest Voice Columnist
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RP
Guest
RP
4 years 7 months ago
Dean you make some excellent points, especially the paragraph listing positions on a number of issues. Maybe those of us in the center would be happier if government tried to stay out of so many different things and worked on what was really important. Many of those issues you list could be controlled at the lcoal level where individuals might have one position in California and New York, while those in Kansas and Georgia might have other ideas. Just a thought that might allow the federal representatives time to really work on deficit reduction andturn the fiscal boat around. As… Read more »
SteveK
Guest
SteveK
4 years 7 months ago

I have voted for Democrats and Republicans in almost equal numbers, and third party candidates on occasion. In 2008 I voted for John McCain (R) but will in all likelihood vote for Barack Obama (D) in 2012. I am the very definition of a “swing voter.” So you would think with all that, I would love this “Americans Elect” idea.

I refer you again to the question you left unanswered the last time you made this claim… Does Michigan allow non-Republican voters to vote in the Republican Primary?

johnhain49
Guest
4 years 7 months ago
If Americans Elect were simply a third party trying to claim the center, what you have so thoughtfully composed would make sense. But, what most people seem to misunderstand about AE is that what it is trying to accomplish is to change the process of how America chooses its candidates for political office, starting with the Presidency this year. The growing polarization and inability of the 2 parties to compromise has led to extreme dysfunction and paralysis in government decision making, and those of us caught in the middle no longer have a voice. Americans Elect has been designed so… Read more »
zephyr
Guest
zephyr
4 years 7 months ago
Lots of people here like Mitt for no other reason than his being a Romney, so I certainly wouldn’t say it means “nothing”. That said, the choices in the primary are abysmal no matter how you shake it out, which means Michigan (unless it loses it’s collective grip on reality) will go for Obama come the general. As for the stream of consciousness rambling about what makes a “centrist”, it seems a little incoherent to me, but then I’m a concise kind of guy who likes to get to the point. Btw, re: this comment: “although I will now add… Read more »
The_Ohioan
Guest
The_Ohioan
4 years 7 months ago

The siren’s song is somewhat off-key. There seem to be some shadowy characters lurking in the background and that’s the way they want it to stay.

A good idea, but its funders need to be more transparent and less heavy handed.

http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/americans-elect-third-party-candidate-2012-6623083

DaGoat
Guest
DaGoat
4 years 7 months ago

I’m in the middle of this book now:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0312581777/ref=oh_o02_s01_i00_details

What studies have shown is that independents are primarily made up of people who are more socially liberal than Republicans and more fiscally conservative the Democrats. There used to be a lot of politicians like this in both parties until the recent stampede into “purity” on both sides of the aisle.

A candidate with those attributes could conceivably attract a big chunk of independents plus possibly some Democrats and Republicans that aren’t on the extremes. The problem of course is finding and financing that candidate.

SteveK
Guest
SteveK
4 years 7 months ago
Btw, re: this comment: “although I will now add that obnoxious Democrats who cast aspersions at anyone who thinks different from them could certainly talk me out of it” Kind of a silly thing to say. If your convictions are that fragile why should anyone care? Thanks Zepher. When I read “I am not a Republican’s” first reply explaining how primaries work in Michigan I was going thank him and admit that I hadn’t looked into it but assumed (since he chose not to reply four times in two threads about them) that they were closed… But after reading his… Read more »
SteveK
Guest
SteveK
4 years 7 months ago

My comment:

Regarding “Americans Elect” they’re
pretend to allow open elections but their actual

Should have read:

Regarding “Americans Elect” they pretend to allow open elections but they’re actually:

Teach me to drop out in the fifth grade. 😉

johnhain49
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

Americans Elect is the “Green Eggs and Ham” of the upcoming American awakening. Instead of making excuses for rejecting it, try it out. You have nothing to lose by participating and helping to choose a valid nominee, unless, of course the current two party standoff is working for you.

ShannonLeee
Guest
ShannonLeee
4 years 7 months ago

Dear 3rd party candidate,

best of luck getting on all of the state ballots…

zephyr
Guest
zephyr
4 years 7 months ago
Just to follow up Steve’s info, here’s some more background on Americans Elect by way of Wiki: “Kellen Arno is the National Field Director for Americans Elect[50] and his father, Michael Arno, is Ballot Access Advisor for Americans Elect.[44] Michael Arno is the president of the controversial Arno Political Consultants with his son, Kellen, assisting as vice president.[51][52] Arno Political Consultants, Inc. (APC) is a company based in Lincoln, California. The company was founded in 1979 by Michael Arno.[1] The company reports that its former and current clients include the National Rifle Association and R. J. Reynolds.[2] APC has frequently… Read more »
zephyr
Guest
zephyr
4 years 7 months ago

Dean, speaking as an issue oriented voter it would be foolish to switch positions based on whether someone (of either party) ticks me off. I lean liberal for the simple reason that reality and morality are better represented on that side of the divide, of course ymmv. It would make no sense for anyone to switch positions on an issue merely because they were in a snit about someones elses behavior. That doesn’t mean people won’t do it but it does mean those who do were pretty lax in thier convictions (integrity) in the first place.

SteveK
Guest
SteveK
4 years 7 months ago
2nd post… 1st is “awaiting moderation” America Elect states that President Obama thinks “Most illegal immigrants should be able to stay in the US, with some exceptions” based on these actions by, and quotes from, him. Send 1,200 National Guard troops to southern border Crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants America has nothing to fear from today’s immigrants We need comprehensive reform, like McCain used to support Need to look at different aspects of immigration reform Deporting 12 million people is ridiculous and impractical Immigrants are scapegoats for high unemployment rates Illegals shouldn’t work; but should have path… Read more »
zephyr
Guest
zephyr
4 years 7 months ago

Needless to say, you can’t please everyone. All you can do is what you believe is right, honest, and fair – and hope you’re not wrong. Of course there are no perfect candidates, but there are some obvious smellers and these can be culled from consideration pretty quickly (at least by non-partisans). I’ll admit to being pretty judgemental about this stuff.

roro80
Guest
roro80
4 years 7 months ago

“I notice no shortage of people whoo seem to feel that the Tea Party would prevent them from supporting Republicans, just for example”

That’s not because Tea Partiers are “obnoxious”. It’s because they’re wrong.

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