Californians have a new political party to contest the 2012 presidential election: Americans Elect.
But while the party has secured enough signatures to qualify for the ballot here, just about everything else about it is as hazy as California smog.
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Americans Elect proposes to have people nominate their favorite candidates, whoever they may be via the Internet.
The candidates will be qualified by the organization's "Candidate Certification Committee," which will ultimately whittle the number for voter consideration to six.
In June 2012, people will vote via Internet for one of the six candidates, and that name will appear as the Americans Elect presidential nominee in the states where the party is registered. So far, the Americans Elect party is registered in 12 states, and hopes to be registered in all 50 states in time for the 2012 presidential election.
The value proposition underlying Americans Elect is that the major political parties don't represent ordinary Americans and are polarized, dysfunctional political bodies.
As such their candidates are bound to fail because they are products of that system. Americans Elect proposes an election process beyond politics, one that will be transparent and directly accountable to the voters.
That's where the whole concept falls apart. Elections are about politics and vision. They are moments when voters weigh in on competing sets of values. Most of us tend to vote for the candidates who are closest to our own values, realizing that no one will represent them perfectly.
In that respect, Americans Elect is no different than any other political interest. Are we to believe for a moment that the organization's Candidate Certification Committee's members don't have political values?
Are we to believe that the six people they confirm as candidates don't have political values and policy objectives? Of course they do--we all do.
In effect, Americans Elect is a small, self-selected group that will decide on a list of "qualified" candidates for consideration by the voters. If that isn't manipulative arrogance, it's hard to know what is.
The unfortunate aspect of this charade is that someone will actually appear as a candidate in states where the "party" has qualified--someone who has not gone through the public vetting process known as primaries and caucuses.
In a state with a closely fought race, that person could get enough votes to sway the outcome one way or another.
In politically turbulent times, sometimes it's easy to throw one's hands into the air in disgust about the
process. It's tempting to condemn all politicians as corrupt or self-centered. But there is is no simple way to find a candidate who will represent us all because we all are so different. We each have a different set of values.
The choice we make in November will be the end product of a nominating process that has gone on for months.
That may be exasperating, but it's a lot more transparent and accountable than a self-appointed committee determining a nominee.