Americans Elect Having Trouble Finding Americans Who Want To Elect

Americans Elect, as you likely already know, is a goofy, secretive little group with a unique view on how to go about starting a third-party candidacy.

See, while most third parties assemble around a set of core values and then go about seeking like-minded statesmen to run under that banner, Americans Elect decided right off the bat that they weren't really for anything -- only that some third party needed to exist to prove that people wanted third parties to exist. All of the stuff about having a belief system and a candidate would come after the organization obtained ballot access. So if you want to imagine Americans Elect's vision of the future, picture a horse, standing behind a cart, forever.

What the Americans Elect party eventually comes to stand for, and what the candidate would be selected to stand for it, are all matters that the organization believed could easily be determined after the fact. A series of complicated online caucuses would be held among the party's "delegates," who would come together, and pick a platter of issues and a candidate. Evidently, this plan hit a snag, as there do not appear to be too many Americans who prefer to elect in this "we'll-make-up-what-we-actually believe-in-as-we-go-along" fashion. As Paul Harris reports in the Guardian, "some observers of AE's effort are now pointing to an apparent lack of engagement by ordinary citizens."

That is to say, not enough people want to play.

For candidates themselves, there are various popularity hurdles to pass. Those with high levels of experience – such as former governors or heads of big corporations or unions – need to show support from at least 1,000 people in each of 10 different states. Those with less experience need to show 5,000 supporters in each of ten different states. That support is displayed by persuading AE delegates to "click" on their candidate profile on the website. But, so far, the level of engagement would see no one qualify.

Despite being head of the pack, (Buddy) Roemer, the biggest name politician who is actively seeking to get people involved in Americans Elect, has only 2,164 supporters. His biggest single state is California, where 218 delegates back him. Then there is a rapid fall-off.

That's pretty problematic. Roemer also is going after the Reform Party nomination in the presidential race. That's a pretty smart move on Roemer's part. Right now, if you visit Roemer's page on Americans Elect, it helpfully tells you that his highest priority is "the Economy." This is perhaps a bit more accurate now than it was weeks ago, when it listed his highest priority as "Education," but it still doesn't do the Roemer campaign much justice.

Anyone who's been paying attention to Roemer over the past year knows that his key issue is money in politics and the systemic corruption that happens when, say, super-wealthy hedge-fund managers and lobbyists wield a disproportionate amount of political power. (This is also why Americans Elect will likely disallow Roemer from being their standard-bearer -- the organization is run by super-wealthy hedge-fund managers and lobbyists who enjoy wielding a disproportionate amount of political power.)

Harris notes that the highest volume of support on the draft candidate side goes to -- and this will not surprise you -- Ron Paul. But Paul isn't interested in pursuing the nomination. So essentially, the pickings are slim and the most popular candidates aren't popular enough. The single most telling phrase in Harris' piece is this one: "You do not have to go far down the list of declared AE candidates to get to someone wearing a cowboy hat in their campaign photo."

Americans Elect apparently still claims to have the numbers, citing the fact that it has signed up 400,000 "delegates." However, anyone who registers their email address with Americans Elect becomes a delegate. That does not mean that these delegates are particularly engaged in the process. Full disclosure: This means that technically, I am a delegate. Vote for the cowboy hat person, everyone! (Salon's Alex Pareene is also a delegate, who supports a "draft committee for BASED GOD.")

Recently, Americans Elect has "quietly shifted its fundraising focus" to repaying "the millionaires who" -- stupidly! -- "created it." So it's possible that they understand that the jig is up, and Harris' "delegate math" essentially explains why.

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