Good Idea, Bad Movement

Jonathan Alter described a new political movement designed to activate netizens so they will have more impact in the 2008 presidential election. His premise is sound:

He said that successful presidents have all skillfully exploited the dominant medium of their times. The Founders were eloquent writers in the age of pamphleteering. Franklin D. Roosevelt restored hope in 1933 by mastering radio. And John F. Kennedy was the first president elected because of his understanding of television.

Will 2008 bring the first Internet president? Last time, Howard Dean and later John Kerry showed that the whole idea of “early money” is now obsolete in presidential politics. The Internet lets candidates who catch fire raise millions in small donations practically overnight. That’s why all the talk of Hillary Clinton’s “war chest” making her the front runner for 2008 is the most hackneyed punditry around. Money from wealthy donors remains the essential ingredient in most state and local campaigns, but “free media” shapes the outcome of presidential races, and the Internet is the freest media of all.

Then he goes on to describe a new group and their plan to impact the 2008 elections:

To begin busting up the dumb system we have for selecting presidents, a bipartisan group will open shop this week at Unity08.com. This Internet-based third party is spearheaded by three veterans of the antique 1976 campaign: Democrats Hamilton Jordan and Gerald Rafshoon helped get Jimmy Carter elected; Republican Doug Bailey did media for Gerald Ford before launching the political TIP SHEET Hotline. They are joined by the independent former governor of Maine, Angus King, and a collection of idealistic young people who are also tired of a nominating process that pulls the major party candidates to the extremes. Their hope: to get even a fraction of the 50 million who voted for the next American Idol to nominate a third-party candidate for president online and use this new army to get him or her on the ballot in all 50 states. The idea is to go viral””or die. “The worst thing that could happen would be for a bunch of old white guys like us to run this,” Jordan says.

The Unity08 plan is for an online third-party convention in mid-2008, following the early primaries. Any registered voter could be a delegate; their identities would be confirmed by cross-referencing with voter registration rolls (which would also prevent people from casting more than one ballot). That would likely include a much larger number than the few thousand primary voters who all but nominate the major party candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire. This virtual process will vote on a centrist platform and nominate a bipartisan ticket. The idea is that even if the third-party nominee didn’t win, he would wield serious power in the ’08 election, which will likely be close.

The key problem becomes more obvious when one looks at the Unity08 site:

Goal One is the election of a Unity Ticket for President and Vice-President of the United States in 2008 ““ headed by a woman and/or man from each major party or by an independent who presents a Unity Team from both parties.

While they claim they wish to get rid of the major party extremes, such a concept is likely to draw more moderates. The Republicans a Democrat would support or the Democrats a Republican would support are very likely to be moderate. Take a look at some of the issues moderates have a history of supporting: the McCain-Feingold Bill, increased spending, the Iraq War, the Patriot Act. What America needs is not watered down tyranny, but extremism in defense of liberty.

I applaud the mechanism but am fearful of this particular result. H/T to Ken H.

posted by Stephen Gordon
  • KenH

    They definitely are aiming at Unity08 to be middle-of-the-road. I think there is a saying that goes something like “There’s nothing in the middle of the road except for yellow stripes and dead armadilloes”. 8-)

    I don’t see Unity08 as being useful to expanding the frontiers of freedom in these United States. But their emphasis on using the Internet is on target, I believe.

  • http://www.sundwall4congress.org Eric Sundwall

    The LP ought to consider a digital delegate process. This type of innovation would include all those who can’t make a physical trek yet remain in touch and engaged via technology. All the backroom stuff could still happen, just with another 4-5 thousand folks at the ready to vote on it. Somebody will do it eventually . . . This would get national attention and coverage beyond a coterie of reformers and old guard.

    What’s the drawback ? A potential for tampering ?

  • Devious David

    Well said, SG. We already have moderate major party candidates going head to head. This thing is probably financed by the majors in order to get the people to chase their tails and think that they are doing something. Nothing worthwhile would come from this. And that’s what the powers that be want! They finance their own opposition so that the results can be preordained. Remember, good elections will cost us just $6 ?!

    As for digital conventions, I disagree. I think some business should be done mano-a-mano.

  • Stephen Gordon

    I wouldn’t mind an electronic convention, but there are a few issues standing in the way.

    1) Security. If anyone can figure out a way to exploit online security holes, libertarians can. Also, it would make the LP more suceptable to an outside takeover.

    2) It could not happen unless a large enough delegation showed at a “mano-a-mano” to sway the vote. Many who show at the traditional conventions would be reluctant to lose their power to a larger voter base.

  • http://iliketocomplain.blogspot.com Chris Monnier

    > What America needs is not watered down tyranny, but extremism in defense of liberty.

    Exactly (well, watch who you say “extremism” around). The so-called moderates featured prominently in the media (John McCain, Joe Lieberman) are in the “Statist” section of the Nolan Chart.

    Historically, Democratic views have been perceived to be pro-liberty on social issues, and Republican views have been perceived to pro-liberty on economic issues. But look at the two parties now. Besides a wavering anti-war stance, what do the Democrats support that is consistent with liberty? They don’t support ending the Drug War, and only some of them even support allowing states to legalize medical marijuana. And what’s even remotely pro-liberty about Republican positions, which ecnomically are more pro big business than pro free market, and socially are reminiscent of the Soviet Union?

    Instead of the best of both worlds, a moderate ticket would give us the *worst* of both worlds.

  • http://www.smithforpresident.com/ Michael Smith

    I agree with the notion that the internet could enable something other than the “winner take all” nominees from the extremes. I think the time has come for the “microcampaign” ”“ Dozens of candidates attending the nominating conventions, each with just a few delegates.

    I’m Michael Smith, running my own Presidential campaign at smithforpresident.com, and although my odds at the White House are astronomical, I think it’s time for a dramatic shift in the process. The answer isn’t likely to come from the center of the road, but from all points on the spectrum actively debating and wresting the issues from the money interests on the extremes.

  • undercover_anarchist

    I was with the idea all the way up until the end.

  • Devious David

    Michael Smith, typical Republican… “abolish income tax, replace with FairTax… protect state’s rights.” LOL In order to be a Republican you must be a complete and utter contradiction. They all seem to manage. Miraculous.

  • Stephen Gordon

    Mr. Smith,

    The question I’ve never been able to have answered clearly is why I should feel confident with the Fair Tax (or similar consumption tax) if the 16th Amendment isn’t simultaneously repealed. It seems to me that we’d end up with both an Income Tax and a Consumption Tax within a year or two (the first fiscal crisis) if this was the case.

  • http://www.freedomdemocrats.org/ LoganFerree

    The biggest problem with ‘appeals to the center’ is that the media and the pundits have decided that Democrats become more moderate by moving to the right on social issues, therefore keeping their economic liberalism and being called ‘populist’ :coughAUTHORITARIANScough: Republicans are told to move to the left on economic issues, keep their social conservative, and are called ‘compassionate conservatives’ or ‘big government conservatives.’

    If only the reverse were true and the pundits and the media told Democrats to move to the center by shifting to the right on economic issues and running as ‘low tax liberals.’ And Republicans become more moderate by moving toward the left on social issues and running as something equally clever.

    I’m not sure why the status quo developed, but I think I would blame the success of Carter in 1976 and the failure of Gary Hart to get the 1984 nomination.

  • Timothy West

    “low tax liberal” was how Clark referred to himself in 1980.

  • http://www.smithforpresident.com/ Michael Smith

    Mr. Gordon,

    I think repeal of the 16th amendment would be appropriate. I share your concern that if the government suddenly has two tools for the generation of revenue, it won’t be content to leave one in the tool box. The public’s tolerance for additional tax burden seems stretched, but most are relatively ignorant of the incredible burden they are currently under. Governments have a way of insidiously “boiling the frog” so that the incremental changes seem imperceptible. We not only need a different taxation philosophy, but we need to cut the government to just those functions mandated in the constitution. Once that yoke is lifted, people will have an acute awareness of the burden they’ve borne these last 50 years or so.

  • http://www.fairtaxvolunteer.org/smart/faq-main.html#2 Wade

    Repeal of the 16th amendment is part of the fair tax.The following is from Fairtax.org in the FAQ section
    FairTax
    Frequently Asked Questions
    1. What is taxed? The FairTax is a single-rate, federal retail sales tax collected only once, at the final point of purchase of new goods and services for personal consumption. Used items are not taxed. Business-to-business purchases for the production of goods and services are not taxed. A rebate makes the effective rate progressive.
    2. Exactly what taxes are abolished? The FairTax is replacement, not reform. It replaces federal income taxes including, personal, estate, gift, capital gains, alternative minimum, Social Security, Medicare, self-employment, and corporate taxes.

  • Stephen Gordon

    Wade,

    Which part of HR25 repeals the 16th Amendment? How can legislation override a Constitutional Amendment?

  • http://www.coolparty.us Jon

    Comment by Chris Monnier:

    “Instead of the best of both worlds, a moderate ticket would give us the *worst* of both worlds.”

    Chris, I thought you were pro-Jesse Ventura in ’08. Isn’t it obvious this Unity08 thing is the ideal mechanism for a “centrist” as Ventura calls himself (socially liberal, fiscally conservative) to get this “third party” nomination?

    Btw, Ventura’s been tight with Angus King who’s mentioned in the story as part of this Unity08. If Ventura decided he wanted to get elected in ’08, having this Unity08 organization “draft” him to run would be way more shrewd than Perot’s “if the volunteers put me on the ballot in all 50 states…” line while Perot was pouring millions into paying professional petitioners.

  • http://www.LPWI.org Rolf Lindgren

    I see they are going after the Electoral College.

    The Founding fathers intended to power to elect the president to lie with the States. They didn’t want a national election.

    The largest population base to hold an election under the original Constitution was 30,000 for House seats. That’s because the people voting might actually know who they are voting for.

    A national election from a population base of 280 million people is ridiculous.

  • http://MizzouNYC.wordpress.com Matt Sokoloff

    I think you may be getting ahead of yourself. Why not wait and see what they support. Don’t be so quick to tackle another third party just because they are another third party. If anything this should be looked at as a way to have a better discussion on the issues rather than just hearing from two extremes.

  • Julian

    The political environment with the Republicans and Democrats being corrupt, tax and spend, property grabbing empire builders is beginning to radicalize me. At my age, I don’t know if my heart will hold up with the anger and hate I now have toward the “system” that exists.

    Lawyers should be banned from office. What in the hell gives local governments the right to seize private property under eminent domain and allow private golf courses, Mercedes dealerships and Wal-marts to end up with the property? I am not anti-business but the shit our big government is doing to us has got to stop.

    We need to elect people that promise not to pass more legislation, but to undo what has been done to damage us as citizens.

    Are we going to end up in a shooting revolution in my generation to reestablish our Constitutional rights? I believe it is bullshit to believe peaceful change can be affected in today’s environment. All of us are victims. When citizens wake up, Big Brother is done.

  • Julian

    We can now label anyone a terrorist just for expressing ideas or opinions that go against the tide. George Orwell’s 1984 is coming of age.

    I have a very good friend, a true Vietnam war hero, that has somehow ended up on the terrorist “no fly” watch list. What gives? He used to work for the airlines. He is in his late 50’s and has to have an oxygen bottle strapped to him just to live. What the hell? How did he end up on the list? Does he deserve that? Oh, the old “crazy Vietnam vet” appears to be alive and well. If it can happen to him, it will happen to you too.

  • Julian

    I am a realist. I do not believe the best decisions come from committee consensus. Compromises, which is what centrists or so called moderates operate on is worse than either the radicalism on the left or right. I will not vote for a compromiser nor do I want to be involved in a movement that advocates compromising principles by moving to the center. I want to be free in a democracy that has as little government as possible. I know what is good for me. Screw the lawmakers that keep passing laws such as buckle up, no cell phones, always drive in the outside lane, welfare for your soul (vote), let’s collect the guns so you will be safe, take our land for someone else’s benefit, randomly stop cars and search because you might have drugs or had a beer mentality.

    One person, Douglas Bruce, El Paso county, Colorado Commissioner is standing up to the dictators but the news media, his enemies, and government beauracrats spend all their waking hours slandering and verbally abusing him.

  • Julian

    There may be a few good patriots or statesmen out there that are a lonely voice in the wilderness that we need to support. There are a few scattered examples throughout the country and maybe we should seduce them to become libertarians. Hell, why not have libertarians run as Republicans or Democrats as stealths and when elected, declare themselves as libertarians and register as a LP member?

    Maybe this should not happen as soon as elected, but establish oneself with the constituancy first and then make the switch? The Republicans and Democrats are so worthless that shoving it up their ass would be good for them.

  • Devious David

    Julian, I was thinking about banning lawyers from office the other day. That is a fine idea! And totally unrealistic, of course. Most of Congress would have to fire themselves!

    In typical conservative fashion, I find it amusing that you would rant about not compromising and standing for principle when he has pushed for just such a thing within the LP, with his obvious desire to turn it into the conservative party.

    If Douglas Bruce is doing as you say he is, then you should support him and make a BIG deal about it. Stand on the corner with signs if you have to.

    Your idea of stealth candidates is a proven loser and unrealistic. It would take the imposition of a lot of statism to move on up to any meaningful level within either party. Just showing up won’t work… you’ve got to work within the party and move up to get the nomination.

  • http://voteoverstreet.org Kris Overstreet

    If extremism is a virtue, then bin Laden is the most virtuous person in the world.

    I personally say extremism is no virtue at all, especially when it undermines what you’re trying to do.

    That said, this “Union Party” is fundamentally flawed because it essentially seeks to put a third Democrat and/or Republican on the November ballot. It doesn’t seek to change the status quo- in fact it seeks to reinforce it.

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  • Stephen Gordon

    Matt,

    After sitting in on the conference call, I’m a bit more enthused. Like Brantley suggested, I think ballot access and other organizational issues have not been addressed well enough. From Perot to Nader’s last run, ballot access issues have been botched time and time again with independent runs. The LP is the only organization which consistently achieves ballot access success, but it takes so much effort there is little left to run a campaign.

    On other issues, I think Angus King and Hamilton Jordan represented themselves well.

    Perhaps the key dissenting issue for me is the exact definition of the word moderate. Too many of us out here (including those who chart such distinctions) moderates would have voted for the Iraq War and the Patriot Act.

  • LC

    How about a ticket with Jesse Ventura for Pres & Aaron Russo for VP?

    Ventura has a very recognizable name already & at least 1 state that would support him.

    Aaron Russo has support in Hollywood (hopefully financially as well) & amongst libertarians &, hopefully, will have a more recognizable name once his movie ‘America: Freedom To Fascism’ (opening 7/28/06 & the dvd, hopefully by xmas) are released.

    That would be a 3rd party ticket that at least has a small chance of winning & could therefore be worth the tremendous effort to make it happen.

    It also has a chance of actually being freedom-oriented.

    No candidate or team is perfect. But to at least have a chance, the names must be *very* recognizable throughout the country. And their positions should be freedom-oriented – anti-war, lower taxes & spending, individual rights – rather than just a ‘compromise’ between Rep. & Dem. platforms.

    A Ventura/Russo ticket might actually have a chance.

  • http://iliketocomplain.blogspot.com Chris Monnier

    Well, there can be “statist centrists” and “libertarian centrists.” The popular centrists are statists–John McCain, Joseph Lieberman, etc. When the media characterizes someone as centrist, it’s almost always because they compromise with the other major party. So-and-so is a centrist because they believe that in addition to cutting wasteful spending, some moderate tax increases are necessary. Or so-and-so is a moderate because they believe there has to be a “balance” between freedom and security.

    As Stephen pointed out, this type of centrism is watered-down tyranny. If there’s no major opposition to a compromising “everybody sort of agrees” centrist party, then that could be even more dangerous than the polarized tyranny we have today. At least the two major parties fight each other’s ideas out of sheer party loyalty.

    I’m worried that Unity08 will be statist-centrist instead of libertarian-centrist. But if Jesse Ventura was involved, maybe it would be libertarian-centrist…

  • Caleb

    Jesse Ventura would not get vary many votes. He would get almost none in the state of MN. He was a failure as governor and the entire state knows it. He may have been a centrist but he had a horrible public persona and gave us this damn train that is costing us billions. People use his name as a synonym for incompetent leadership. I think he recently moved to Mexico.

    The problem with centrists is they have no real base. McCain has been slowly moving to the left, and as he does so he is loosing his support from the right. If he wins it will be because people vote for him as a vote against his opponent. Although that is all John Kerry ran on and he got close wining. It is a sad day!

    Discontent with the status quo is getting high, if a 3rd party candidate had enough money to buy the election, they could win. What does an election cost now days, $100 million?

    What we need is someone with the speaking ability of Tony Blair, who is a moderate libertarian, and has $100 million!

  • http://www.sprawlkills.com Joel S. Hirschhorn

    Wake up! Unity08 is a con. It will impede a true and badly needed new third party. It inherently supports the two-party duopoly. It is the height of destructive political distraction.

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