False Choices Aren’t Choices: What If Athens Had the Internet?

Coke is better than Pepsi.  The National League is superior.  Heinz > Hunts.

The Democrat and Republican brands at the national level?  Both unappealing.

The populist, rational elements in the Tea Party and Occupy movements?  More aligned than everyone who benefits from the “your two choices are” narrative wants to admit.  (Everyone like both national parties and much of the media).

The efficacy of Americans Elect remains to be seen, but they’re right: Iowa and New Hampshire shouldn’t have the biggest say in which major-party candidates survive to other states. And we shouldn’t only have major-party options in the first place. )Sorry, Campaigns and Elections class in college.  You were right about almost everything else.)

This is closest we’ve ever gotten, practically, to a direct nomination process.  Remember when Ross Perot said we’d have townhall meetings and direct democracy via computers in the future?  Will we?  Only if we want to.  Sure, he thought he’d get the contract to build our civic Cerebro, but that’s another story.

 

Ross Perot Was Not My High School History Teacher (The Election’s Not Achtung Baby)

Ross Perot at the United States Department of ...
Not my 11th-grade history teacher.

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.

Americans Elect: Common Ground Between Tea Partiers and Occupiers of Good Will?

Citizens registered as an Independent, Democra...
Image via Wikipedia

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 RepublicansDemocrats 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?