This grew out of a response to comments by Mr. Salk and Chad Hogg (not a friend of Buddy Roemer, necessarily), but I thought I’d share it here, lest ye forget, lest, as my 11th-grade history teacher used to say, ye be bored.
Before Perot left the race in ’92 (only to come back later), he was polling double digits nationally, leading many or most of them. He was at 39% at one point in the cycle. In a three-way race, obviously, that’s saying something. Yes, his numbers started to fall as the summer went on and he made some critical blunders (or was compromised by outside forces, which he claimed).
Could he have ever won in the first place? It’s not likely, but it’s conceivable. Had he not dropped out of the race under bizarre circumstances, only to come back later, I do believe he would have polled the 20 percent nationally required for federal funds. That whole process itself is out to lunch, but it would have made enabled Perot to build what could be, by now, a truly viable third party. If if if if.
Incidentally, Perot advocated for electronic town hall style democracy 20 years ago. That’s actually possible now. Nevermind the fact that he owned an IT/data company with government contracts at the time…
Around here, we all know I heart the 90s. But this “we’re really done with you, Republicans and Democrats” thing isn’t just some flight of nostalgic fancy. It’s not that Legends of the Hidden Temple marathon you watched a few weeks ago or the forthcoming Achtung Baby reissue. Still, the changes in the air in early 90s Europe resonate with me here, and that’s not just because of how hard the Scorpions rock.
Our good friend Chad alerted me to the Americans Elect project a few months ago in a comment here on The Daily Cocca. Americans Elect aims to by-pass the major parties and nominate a centrist candidate directly on the internet. I love the concept, and yesterday’s post about the Tea Party and Occupy needing to recognize common ground comes from same anxiety that motivate most third-party pushes on a popular level. Since the head’s up from Chad, I’ve been getting Americans Elect email updates and have been quietly following their presence on Twitter. We’ve all learned to be cautious about these kinds of things, and I’m far from saying that Americans Elect will be the vehicle to bring substantive change over the next decade, but it certainly could be one important piece to the puzzle of which Occupy and the Tea Party are clearly a part.
In addition to having an outstanding name, Doyle McManus has a piece up about Americans Elect in today’s LA Times. An excerpt:
Americans Elect is a collection of Republicans, Democrats and independents who say they’re fed up with the polarization that has poisoned American politics. Some of its backers have previously contributed to Obama, Romney or other candidates. Several are fans of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has flirted with the idea of running as a third-party centrist. The group’s central figure is Peter Ackerman, a wealthy investor and former banker who considers himself an independent and who was active four years ago in a similar effort called Unity08.
Chad’s friend Buddy Roemer even gets a shout out. Chad asked yesterday if I still have hope about 2012 being different. I said that the election may not be (I hope it is), but the year must be, and the year after that. We can’t have another 1992 fizzling into another 1996 (at least not politically. I still miss you, The 90’s). We need to think of efforts like Americans Elect or the drives toward unity between disaffected groups less as “third-party” movements and more as logical responses to the truth that the entrenched parties are ridiculous and don’t really speak for most of us at the national level. Why is it that in 2011, I have no one to the left of Obama to consider no one in the GOP field besides Ron Paul that’s worth my time? And why no unity tickets, no great American middle, no options that make real sense to most of us? Are we free or aren’t we?
Americans Elect should have a presence at every Tea Party event and every Occupation. I said yesterday that we all need to work together to move beyond the b.s. status quo. Most of us hate it. Most of us have grown up hating it. We’ve allowed ourselves to divorce the faithful execution of our other civic virtues from the basic failure that is our federal government. We might be good neighbors and community leaders, but as long as we let slash-and-burning sycophants set the national agenda, we enable false choices and division and we give away our power. Enough of that, already.
I remember learning as a child that Athens had a system of direct democracy, and that one day, maybe one day, with advancements in technology, maybe the US could do the same. The Tea Party and Occupy are analog versions of this kind of shift. Is Americans Elect the technical piece that helps us with real change? Doesn’t that depend on us?
A good friend engaged me about this via email this week. I think it’s just about beyond question that our national political structures are utterly, fundamentally broken at the macro level. A broad survey leaves little to the imagination: special interests, Big Whatever…in too many ways our politicians are not our own and are accountable first to their fundraisers and donors. There are exceptions. There are micro-level organizations of integrity, there are good candidates and great public servants. But the system itself exists for itself in perpetuity. Don’t believe me? Try running for Super Congress.
Are our politics broken beyond repair, or can they be fixed according to the rules they’re governed by now?
How anxious are you? If you’re between 18 and 100, are tech-savvy and engaged, your answer should be very. If you’re between 30 and, say, 45 (the Upper Cusack Limit), you might also consider the total refusal of anyone to move a sane agenda forward as an unprecedented opportunity to lead.
Babyboomers, heel-graspers that they’ve been, have been uncannily quiet in all of this at the national level. Sure, they’ve been the public face of so much chicanery since the Clinton Administration, but they’re not seizing any real opportunities to create something new or leave us with much. Barack Obama, young Boomer that he is, out to be the virile head of some great movement. Alas, there is nothing. If I’m being fair, and I do want to be fair, Obama has lead on a few key policy issues, but the wither, blister, burn, and peel of support from the progressive base is not news. It happened for reasons.
We, the USA Network demographic, don’t trust national Republicans or Democrats. We love the idea of hope and change and progressive causes but we don’t believe in attendant hype or machines. We like the idea of populist movements but have seen them be hijacked by agendas that couldn’t be further from our ideals.
We are displeased. What to do? (If you’re picturing Billy Zane as an evil tycoon who doesn’t give a shit, good. We’re being taunted, everyday, by people who will never want for anything, people we’ve put in power, many of whom are apathetic at best toward our well-being or future.)
One impulse is to turn local, and I believe that localism, rightly channeled in all of its healthy forms, will go a long way toward changing our communities in radically sustainable ways. But that won’t happen without you, Generation X. You who are parents, you who are holding down jobs, paying bills, paying taxes, you great middle class getting screwed. I’m asking you to do more. I know, I know. The good news is that in places like Allentown, PA, and, I imagine, its analogs everywhere, there are indeed many Boomers doing great things and looking for help. Your vested interest is your children’s future. Determined as you are to make damned sure the world they inherit is better than the shit-storm left you, you don’t really have much of a choice. If you’re not already, please get connected. Please make a difference. Please build communities.
But we haven’t forgotten about you, Great National Mess. You are Das Nichtige, the unchosen nothing, the aggregate mass of political sin, of omission, of shirking, of all that is wrong with our government, our economy, our budget, our laws. You are our misplaced priorities. Your time is over, we cannot sustain you, but your enablers have said that you’re too big to fail, too big to move.
But you’re not. We know your coordinates. You thrive at the intersection of political parties and the military industrial complex. George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower, two Citizen-Generals, warned us of you, but we were too busy moving west, killing Indians, too busy moving west, building suburbs, to listen. We’re listening now. We won’t support your national campaigns or your friends in Big Anything. We don’t want Monsanto or Super Congress. We don’t want your labels, your symbols, your platforms. We want clean water, clean air, and safe food. We want safety nets and renewable energy. Sustainability is our ideology, our children are our constituents, and our political leaders will answer to us.
My newest piece for the Huffington Post is live. It’s about how the heroic narrative as proposed by Joseph Campbell maps onto President Obama’s journey up through his election. At midterm, and facing reelection in two short years, where does the hero of the 2008 campaign go from here? Do click on the picture to read.