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By what standards will we judge Americans Elect?

Americans Elect is a Section 527 political corporation that began life earlier this year as the “Unity 12 task force,” a resurrection of the old Unity08 that declared its intention to:

1. Hold an online nomination to
2. Select a ticket for President and Vice President of the United States,
3. One of whom would be a Republican and the other a Democrat, and
4. To advance the unstated Unity08/Unity12 “national agenda.”

Unity08 had a number of failings as an organization during the 2008 election season, but even if it had operated ethically and consistently, it suffered from a crucial and unavoidable flaw in its adoption of the third goal named above. Unity12 suffered from the same central flaw: that it matters much, much more who is President than who is Vice President. The President is the commander in chief of the military and the person ultimately in charge of the entire executive branch of the U.S. government. The Vice President has no independent power except for breaking ties in the Senate and waiting around for the President to die. The party of the President is the party in charge. The party of the Vice President gets nothing. As power sharing, unity tickets in American politics are a farce. No matter what flourishes Unity08 and Unity12 supplied, they would remain a farce.

Unity12 Reloaded as Americans Elect
Unity08 and Unity12 were plagued by the fatal flaw of a lopsided “unity ticket” that would reward one party and give another a trophy. But at the end of July the Unity12 Task Force changed its name to “Americans Elect” and conspicuously dropped a Unity ticket from its mission statement. After this change, Americans Elect’s officially declared intention in its IRS registration papers is to:

1. Hold an online nomination to
2. Select a ticket for President and Vice President of the United States,
3. To advance the unstated Americans Elect “national agenda.”

To date Americans Elect has made no other public move except to issue a paragraph vaguely mentioning balance, a center, delegates, and opinion polling. These references and the unstated Americans Elect “national agenda” could imply just about anything.

Other than these few sketched-in outlines, Americans Elect has retreated to public blankness. So long as Americans Elect remains publicly blank, the ignorance imposed upon us requires that we refrain from judgment. When it is fully rolled out, Americans Elect could turn out to be a horrible idea. It could also turn out to be just what this country needs.

That said, some behind-the-scenes information suggests that when Americans Elect rolls itself out, it will do so quickly and with force:

So while we refrain from judgment regarding the idea of Americans Elect, we should be ready to fully engage with a dizzying display of activity when Americans Elect debuts.

These are the standards by which I will judge Americans Elect, and I hope you will actively apply these standards too.

Procedural Standards

1. Corporate Control: Who is in charge of the Americans Elect corporation? Who are the funders of Americans Elect? Who provides in-kind support to Americans Elect? Are they granted a formal or informal role in steering the course of Americans Elect? Who are the executives and administrators of Americans Elect? Who appoints them? What powers do they have? What ability do American citizens have to change the people in leadership, the structure of leadership or the rules of leadership of Americans Elect?

2. Discussion: Who controls discussion within the domain of Americans Elect? Are American citizens given the ability to participate fully in discussion on the Americans Elect website or in offline meetings of the Americans Elect organization? Is participation in discussion in these venues directed, limited, controlled or censored? What subjects of discussion and modes of discussion are granted legitimacy? What subjects of discussion and modes of discussion are deemed illegitimate?

3. Pre-Nomination: Who is in charge of selecting the contenders for the presidential nomination? Is the selection of contenders for the Americans Elect nomination determined by the Americans Elect corporation or by American citizens?

4. Nomination: Is the selection of contenders for the Americans Elect nomination determined by the Americans Elect corporation or by American citizens?

5. Inclusion: Not everyone in America is online. Not everyone in America is computer-literate. How will an online presidential nomination include those who cannot or do not use internet-connected computers?

6. Consistency: What standards does Americans Elect set for its own conduct? Does Americans Elect follow those standards? What standards does Americans Elect set for the conduct of others in politics? Does Americans Elect follow those standards? If some standards set by Americans Elect conflict with other standards, which of these standards prevail?

7. Transparency: To what degree does Americans Elect provide access to information that allows citizens to answer the above questions or other questions regarding the business of Americans Elect? What information about itself does Americans Elect conceal?

8. Conflict of Interest: Do contenders, nominees, executives or employees of Americans Elect stand to gain from the outcome of Americans Elect activities? Do those promoting Americans Elect from outside the corporate structure stand to gain socially, professionally or economically for their promotional activities?

9. Ability: Is Americans Elect technically capable of fulfilling its promise to conduct an online presidential nomination? Will it be able to do so with reliability and security?

Substantive Standards

Regardless of how Americans Elect proposes to elect its own ticket to the White House, would the policy result be a good idea?

1. What is the content of the “national agenda” Americans Elect publicly identifies? What is the content of the agenda pursued by Americans Elect in its activities? Are these agendas with which I agree?

2. What is the content of the political agenda expressed by those in charge of and working for the Americans Elect corporation? What is the content of the agenda pursued in practice by Americans Elect executives and employees? Are these agendas with which I agree?

3. What is the nature of this “balanced” “center” Americans Elect is dedicated to pursuing in American politics? Is the agenda of a “balanced” “center” one with which I agree?

4. What are the declared agendas of the Americans Elect contenders and nominees? What agendas have Americans Elect candidates pursued in the past? Are these agendas with which I agree?

5. To what extent do these various agendas align or conflict? Which agenda prevails in practice?

Conclusion

The information I share, questions I raise and judgments I make regarding Americans Elect as it unveils itself and pursues its goals will be guided by these standards. Any organization seeking to capture political power in America should answer these questions. It’s my hope that Americans Elect will pro-actively make answers to these questions available to the American citizens who are supposed to be the foundation for this country’s political decision-making. If Americans Elect doesn’t share such information on its own, I hope that it will provide such information upon request. If Americans Elect won’t answer questions and won’t provide information, I’ll be sure to let you know.

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