A Possible Nightmare Scenario for America in 2012

Forget Mayan prophecies. Forget the world ending in 2012. We may have a bigger problem, Houston.

Dissatisfaction with the American political process is no secret.  Many people feel the deeply entrenched, if unofficial (the Founding Fathers detested the very idea of political parties), two party system is inadequate and that the Democrats and Republicans between them lock out any possibility of a third party candidate having a chance on Election Day.  Some people like to lump Republicans and Democrats together, arguing that there is no difference between them and an open-minded observer can see why they might feel that way, whether we agree with them or not. But for better or worse, the two-party system is superior to multi-party systems other countries – Italy for example – have to deal with. If you want real gridlock, perpetual gridlock, go that route. Too many choices can be as bad as too few.

One group in this country has hit upon a very modern and novel approach to the problem, turning to the Internet to provide a forum for candidates from outside the normal political process. Calling itself Americans Elect it promises, “Americans Elect lets you choose a leader that puts country before party.” Saying that 80 percent of voters would “consider an alternative presidential ticket in the coming campaign” they have collected almost two-and-a-half million signatures, “over half,” they brag, “what’s needed to put the Americans Elect ticket on the ballot nationwide.” In other words, they have solved the two-party dilemma by bypassing the powers that be.

Americans Elect promises “an equal vote for every voter” and a nonpartisan ticket, because each finalist must choose a VP “from a party other than their own.”  To be blunt, this isn’t strictly speaking a nonpartisan ticket, since the VP is largely a cipher, but it’s a nice (if superficial) gesture toward conciliation and compromise. In these days of raging partisanship, that’s something, at least. The group makes clear they are not a third party. According to Ileana Wachtel, a spokesperson:

“We’re not a third party. We’re a second nominating process trying to create a ticket that is solutions-based, that will force the conversation to the center rather than keeping it at the extremes of either party.”

Never mind that in 2012 we have a centrist president who steers from the extremes of either party. If ever there was an awkward time to attempt this, it is now.

The group’s goal is to put a candidate on the ballot in every state and so far they’ve raised $22 million (toward a requirement of, they estimate, $35 million) and have some big name supporters.  Look at some of the names:

CEO: Kahill Byrd, former communications director for Gov. Deval Patrick (D) of Massachusetts.


State Rep. Dan Winslow (R-MA), former chief counsel to Mitt Romney

Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman

Former Clinton strategist Doug Schoen

Former National Intelligence Director Adm. Dennis Blair

Former FBI and CIA Director William Webster

Former U.S. Trade Representative Carla Hills

Investment banker Peter Ackerman started them off with a $5 million donation, who go the ball rolling.

So what’s the nightmare scenario, you ask?

Think about a split vote. Think about all those independents who decide elections. In The Pitfalls of a Third-Party Presidential Candidacy, Thomas E. Mann, Senior Fellow, Governance Studies  and Norman J. Ornstein, Resident Scholar, the American Enterprise Institute, argue that the effort is full of pitfalls. They remind us that a third party candidate in office would have difficulty governing:

“Few in the House or Senate would feel allegiance to or affinity for the newly elected president. Nothing in the movement for an independent presidential candidate is affecting recruitment of House and Senate candidates.”

Another potential problem, as they see it, is that “one of the major-party nominees could win a clear electoral victory, albeit with diminished popular support because of the three-way contest. The reduced popular support would undercut the legitimacy of the result and curtail momentum for the victor. In this tough environment, any diminishment of legitimacy for the winner is undesirable.”

But most chillingly, they warn:

“In 2012, the nightmare scenario for us would be angry or demoralized independents and discouraged centrist Republicans gravitating toward the third candidate, enabling a far-right Republican nominee to prevail with a narrow electoral majority or with a plurality followed by a win in a deeply divided House.”

You see where they are headed with this? Who controls the U.S. House of Representatives? The extreme right – Tea Party fanatics, demonstrated nihilists. Who elects the president if this is no clear majority? The U.S. House of Representatives.

The Twelfth Amendment says:

The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot,

Wachtel told CNN, “At this point, the system’s already spoiled,” she said. “We need to open the process up to more competition and more choices for the American people.”

Our political system is a mess. The Supreme Court played no small role in its destruction with its Citizens United ruling. Mann and Ornstein acknowledge this: “When it comes to dismay over contemporary political dysfunction, we yield to no one.” But there is real danger in monkeying with the works. People generally don’t tend to think ahead about the consequences of their actions; we find out about those later – the hard way. And then have to quick come up with a patch or a fix or a “new and improved” something or other to make it right. “It’s a dangerous business, going out your door,” as Bilbo warned Frodo. “You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

That’s where we are with this potential fix to our ideologically driven gridlock in Washington. The gridlock is bad. But as the old saying goes, the cure might be worse than the disease.

30 Replies to “A Possible Nightmare Scenario for America in 2012”

  1. If this group starts getting lots of donations, you can bet it’s with premeditation and malice aforethought.

  2. …”where we are with this potential fix to our ideologically driven gridlock in Washington. The gridlock is bad. But as the old saying goes, the cure might be worse than the disease…”

    We’re repeating history. We had a similar “gridlock” in our early history, as in the election of 1800 that further weakened the Federalist (Adams) and put Jefferson (Democratic-Republican Party) in office. After the fact, there was the “duel” between VP Burr and Sec. Hamilton…and with all the gun around today, we’re not far off away from one of the cretins (our “3rd Party”) calling for the return of dueling to settle our differences.

    I think there is an innocence/sincerity in this new movement actively promoting a new direction. However, the naivete of those who advocate “more choices” do indeed appear unaware of the consequences; they are about to be swallowed whole by the professional, political-elite predators who steal whatever they can…

    …no different than Burr stealing the senate seat from Hamiltons’ father in law (1800), starting a chain of events (gridlock) in the election between Adams-Jefferson…the house broke the electoral gridlock with the help of Burr…

    It appears that you are correct; more 3rd party participation will help this process right along, straight into more gridlock, with more “dueling” as a result (heck, I’m just waiting for one of them to bring “sexy back”, better known as dueling, as a way to settle conflicts)

    …let us not forget the Cheney incident; accident or long-standing bitter conflict between friendly “rivals”? We’ll never know until the obscure emails surface one day, samr as those pesky personal letters did in the 1800’s.

  3. There is some notion that Mr. Hamilton had been getting it on with Mars. Burr, too, but I reckon we’ll never know. As for Cheney, though…remember Bush’s black eye?

  4. I don’t imagine the founding fathers had any idea of Just what could happen when they allow the House of Representatives to appoint a president. to me that smacks of the same stupidity that allows a president to a point a Supreme Court justice based on his political leanings. The one place in the country that should be totally nonpolitical is political in the extreme. Which are House of Representatives has also become.

    When our Congress stopped cooperating and compromising with each other it became its own political party. And that is something that cannot be allowed. The only way to change it is to get rid of everyone in it

    By the way, the reason that we have two political parties is because of the constant arguing between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. this set up the split that created the two party system

  5. While I’m sure Americans Elect may pick up steam, I went to a meeting to see what they were about and I was the only one who showed up. The online dialog before the ‘meeting’ seemed to basically be among Ron Paul supporters. I doubt the organization will have much muscle this year–but maybe in 2016. And if their emergence causes a shake-up in the existing parties…well, a re-alignment is way overdue.

  6. Americans Elect is a brilliant concept that can truly democratize the nominating process. Political parties are nothing more than gangs who use fear, lies, bribes, and intimidation to serve the interests of their members. A crowdsourcing approach such as AE deserves our support and involvement.. Maybe we who reject the corrupt 2 party system will be part of an American Spring this year.

  7. No matter how many parties are created, the results will be the same. There will be some who will feel left out. In the past this was not an issue because they had little or no way to make their displeasure known or felt. Now with a few exceptions the playing field has been leveled out somewhat, and most anyone can get to the table.
    That being said, the real dilemma here is that we know what the problems are, and the means to rectify them. Alas, everyone is waiting for the next guy to put out to help. But no one wants to be the next guy. No one wants to share, sacrifice or help. Until Empathy is instilled in each of us, no matter whose calling the shots, if you don’t have a plurality of help from your fellow humans, you’re screwed. I believe the term is called “the tragedy of the Commons” I think.

  8. There’s a lot of logic errors in this analysis. First, the critique that “Few in the House or Senate would feel allegiance to or affinity for the newly elected president” assumes that a President elected via one of the two major parties would have allegiance, AND it assumes this is a desirable thing. Certainly it presents a challenge for a President, but the entire system of checks and balances is between branches of the government, NOT between parties. The President should have opposition from Congress and vice versa. Allegiance is built/solidified by the practical necessities of governing. Is it going to be any worse than the last 2 years of a divided Congress and a Senate minority willing to filibuster at the drop of the hat? Probably not.

    A similar critique can be leveled against the second object – of a weakened popular support. LOTS of Presidents have entered office and governed with weak popular support. It happens. It’s not like Clinton rode into office with a clear and above board majority and his Presidency turned out ok.

    Yes, the ‘nightmare’ scenario could pass, but it’s unlikely and shouldn’t be used as an excuse to avoid new treatments for gridlock. The cure might be worse than the disease… but the odds are it won’t be. So do we keep on with the current system until it kills us because of fear of a one in a million chance problem or do we try new things?

  9. “Americans Elect is a brilliant concept…”

    Until you follow the money directly to the 1% aka “Americans Elect”

    Peter Ackerman… “career as a financier. At Drexel, he raised billions of dollars for junk-bond-fueled takeovers in the 1980s.”..

    “Ackerman, 65, who made more than $300 million working alongside Michael Milken at Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc.’s Beverly Hills, California, offices in the 1980s, is Americans Elect’s chairman and top donor.”

    “Another hurdle may be Ackerman’s own inability to show he’s as democratic and transparent in business as he expects the rest of the world to be in politics.”


  10. Politicususa … keeping the propaganda war alive I see!
    Remember kids! Choice is bad! Only bad things will happen if you have choice!

  11. Remember if you’re not white, rich and a conservative christian then no one will vote for you. Welcome to America, the land of the Jesusfreaks for 2012.

  12. Thoughtful response, Frank, and I tend to agree. Something’s rotten in D.C. and it’s time for a change in the system.

  13. Thoughtful response, Frank, and I tend to agree. Something’s rotten in D.C. and it’s time for a change in the system.

  14. No, the founding fathers invented the two party system. George Washington was the only one who officially disdained political parties, the rest fell right in line with one party or another.

    Most teabaggers think seem to think that our founding fathers didn’t actually run a government. While they always talk about the Constitution as if it’s scripture, but fail to understand that many of those same men went on into government using such constructs as ‘the general welfare clause’ as part of their policy.

    For example, George Washington’s administration put down two tax rebellions and chartered the First Bank of the United States.

  15. No, George Washington was not the only one who disdained political parties. There was a widespread prejudice against the idea of political parties and electioneering. Benjamin Franklin was proud to say he had never in his life solicited a vote. Politics was not a profession, as it is now.

    I don’t know where you get the outrageous idea that the Founding Fathers invented the two-party system. There were no political parties at all, originally.

  16. The longer this follow the Constitution and the founding fathers thing goes the bigger the stories get about what they did. You have the tea thugs who by now believe that all of founding fathers were 7 foot tall had white hair and were smarter than the normal human. Most of those people could hardly get along with each other there were deep divides in the convention and most of those people did not want to pass this Constitution. They only did it because of Benjamin Franklin writing a speech that said this is the best we’ve got we got a run with it. You even have people who think that the entire constitutional convention was over states rights when it wasn’t bad at all.

    There’s far too many talking about founding fathers in the Constitution would’ve never read anything about it and are using other people’s quotes

    you are right about the two-party system. They were not interested in parties as much as they were interested in only the very wealthy representing the people.

  17. Nowhere in the article I wrote was it suggested that choice was bad. I think we know who is waging a propaganda war, don’t we, Goober?

  18. I have a deep suspicion that this whole thing is being backed by the GOP and the 1%, to try and keep Obama from a second term. I think that this type of idea, while it has a good base, is being used for evil purposes.

  19. I disagree with the writer. What we have right now is a total nightmare. Class warfare, bought career politicians, laws the rest of us must obey but Congress is exempt, etc. and it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out why voter participation is so low and why the masses are angry. We need drastic change and I support AE and look forward to an exciting election with real choice next November.

  20. I nowhere argued that what we have is not a nightmare. It is. That does not mean there is only one possible solution. Seizing on Americans Elect as though it is the only possible thing we can do doesn’t seem reasonable to me.

  21. “But for better or worse, the two-party system is superior to multi-party systems other countries.”

    What a ridiculous statement. A two-party system can scarcely be considered a democracy. It’s a joke.

  22. Democracy is based on the idea that ultimate political authority rests with the people. It has nothing to do with how many political parties exist or whether any exist at all.

  23. If there are enough people who are dissatisfied with the D & R duopoly and if the Americans Elect web site can show that it truly independent and not the creature of a sinister special interest, we could learn something very important from it.

    Americans Elect has no legal standing so its results are not binding. It is untried and it is not yet known whether or not it will become the creature of the parties, or worse of a sinister political manipulator.

    People can vote extra-legally for the third party and also vote in the legal elections.

    If we find that there really is impetus for change toward more parties or different parties, Americans Elect will provide a road map.

    It is far more likely that Americans Elect are a group of self-promoting web entrepeneurs who will find a way to make money off this idea without affecting the political environoment at all.

  24. Since the president is selected by the electoral college, not the (national) popular vote, why does the electoral college have to give their votes to this americanselect candidate? Also, I wouldn’t see them getting the popular vote in any states in 2012. This group needs to be exposed for what it is: corporate and big-moneyed interests trying to select the president with a fiat congress.

  25. Judging by the founders of America Elects and it’s probable other backers (Koch’s, Singer, et al) then your comment of: “… if the Americans Elect web site can show that it truly independent and not the creature of a sinister special interest, we could learn something very important from it.”, is moot. This whole issue needs some legal scrutiny which we will never see in MSM.

  26. Also, this is from irregular times web site.
    Something that a political party does NOT do, as Democracy21 explains:

    Americans Elect is not only devoted to intervening in the 2012 elections, it is actually qualifying itself as a political party for purposes of state ballot access laws. A political party is not eligible to qualify as a section 501(c)(4) tax exempt organization.

    Americans Elect registered as a 501c4 corporation so it could hide the identity of its contributors from you and me. 501c4 corporations can legally do that. Political parties can’t. That’s why the IRS says 501c4 corporations cannot engage in the candidate-running activities of a political party:

    The promotion of social welfare does not include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.

    Hiding contributors from the public. Registering as a party and planning a big party future while lying to the public about being one. Despite multiple indications to the contrary, Americans Elect says it doesn’t have any special interests on board. According to Americans Elect, it’s doing it all for you.

  27. But who are those International Voters and How come they get to make the last Vote on who will be President of the USA. You folks talk about the Independent Party like they should not exist. And the Tea Party poeple. We are raised with the Democrats and the Republicans , we the Voters of these two Organization are the only two that should still be out there. I am not sure why the public or communities are always left out. Because the News Media also have their Issues. Every issues in America are always a HIDING PROJECT.

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