The polarization of our political system is a source of continuing frustration to most Americans who are more concerned about sensible governance than ideological posturing. Polls confirm that the vast majority of citizens are in the political middle, but they have no voice in Washington. Something is badly out of whack.
History suggests this situation is ripe for a third party movement, presumably one composed of people in the mainstream, but that has never served as a rallying cry for the disaffected, and in any case there is no third party on the horizon.Enter stage left a new group, Americans Elect, which proposes to short-circuit the existing process to produce a moderate slate that will appeal to the political middle. The avowed goal is to guarantee that a credible alternative choice, nominated independently, will not only be on the ballot in every state, but be able to take part in every presidential debate and challenge both parties from the middle with non-ideological ideas for growing the economy, reducing the national debt and creating jobs.
As the group explains on its web site, www.americanselect.org, this will be the first ever wide open Internet nominating process. Every voter of whatever party or no party will have an opportunity to help frame the issues and help select credible candidates. Each presidential candidate will be required to choose a running mate of the other party or an independent. In April, the candidate pool will be reduced to six, at which time those six will name their running mates. The online voters will choose the winning slate that will then be off and running against the major party candidates.
"Write it down," wrote columnist Tom Friedman. "Americans Elect. What Amazon.com did to books, what the blogosphere did to newspapers, what the iPod did to music, what drugstore.com did to pharmacies, Americans Elect plans to do to the two-party duopoly that has dominated American political life - remove the barriers to real competition, flatten the incumbents and let the people in. Watch out."
Americans Elect is not a third party in the normal sense of the term, because it does not have a specific political agenda. Rather, its entire purpose is to create a process in which the majority of voters in the center will have a voice in the presidential election.
This is a serious movement that has raised more than $22 million so far and, with almost 2.5 million signatures already in hand, is halfway to getting on the ballot in all 50 states. Its leadership includes some prominent names: former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, former Oklahoma Governor and Senator David Boren, former National Intelligence Director Adm. Dennis Blair, former FBI and CIA director William Webster, former U.S. Trade Representative Carla Hills, and many other prominent leaders of both major parties.
One of those others is yours truly. I do believe the polarization of our political system poses a real threat to the integrity of our government. To the extent Americans Elect steer the system back to the political mainstream, it is a worthy undertaking.
Jerry Jasinowski, an economist and author, serve d as President of the National Association of Manufacturers for 14 years and later The Manufacturing Institute. Jerry is available for speaking engagements. March 2012