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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Americans Elect, RIP

Our chapter on political parties analyzes the barriers to third parties in the United States.  The latest example is Americans Elect, as AP reports:
A private organization established to run a third-party candidate in this year’s presidential elections has thrown in the towel, saying no one mustered sufficient support for such an effort.
Kahlil Byrd, chief executive officer of Americans Elect, said in a statement that under the rules his group approved for an online primary, the process was ending Tuesday.
Third party presidential candidacies have rarely succeeded in U.S. politics, and Americans Elect had hoped to conduct the “Americans Elect Online Convention” this June.
But Byrd said that “as of today, no candidate has reached the national support threshold required” to enter the online convention. He added that there still is “an almost universal desire among delegates, leadership and millions of Americans who have supported AE to see a credible candidate emerge from this process.”
John Avlon writes at The Daily Beast:
There are a range of explanations for why Americans Elect fell so far short of their nomination goals.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle was the basic fact of this particular election cycle—when a president is running for reelection, it tends to be a referendum. Third-party candidacies do best when there is not an incumbent on the ballot; think Ross Perot ’92 versus ’96.

The endurance of the Republican primary likewise provided plenty of polarizing, and pandering moments were evidence why an alternative is badly needed, but by the time Mitt Romney secured the nomination there was relatively little time for another candidate to make their case, and less urgency than if Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich were the nominee.

Finally, the organization’s emphasis on ballot security proved to be an unexpected barrier to entry. The technology powering the online draft effort won South by Southwest’s People’s Choice Award, won by Groupon last year. It was designed by the team that built the E*Trade platform. It was so secure in terms of ensuring one person one vote that actually signing up to serve as a delegate and support a candidate took several steps and more than 10 minutes. In an era of slacktivists used to ‘liking’ something and quickly moving on, this was a serious hurdle.