When Unity08 transformed itself into the Unity12 Task Force this April, it described itself in terms nearly identical to those of Unity08:
The goal of the Unity12 Task Force is to set the stage for an effort to nominate a Unity Ticket for President and Vice-President of the United States in 2012. This ticket will be headed by a woman and or man from each major party or by an independent who presents a Unity Team from both parties. We also aim to effect major change and reform in the 2012 national elections by influencing the major parties to adopt the core features of our national agenda.
This initial statement had two features:
1. Trivial bipartisanship. The Unity12 Task Force sought the same nominal but trivial bipartisan ticket that Unity08 did, with the same basic problem: Vice Presidents have no independent power until Presidents die or resign, meaning that whichever party held the President’s spot would be in control.
2. Reference to an existing national agenda. I have no idea what “the core features of our national agenda” might have been. But they indicated a group with some predetermined policy goals.
In July of 2010, the Unity12 Task Force underwent another name change, this time to Americans Elect. With its new name came a revision of goals:
In order for Americans to enjoy the governance they deserve, Americans Elect will organize an Internet-based convention that nominates a presidential ticket for 2012. Every registered voter in America will be eligible to be a delegate. Americans Elect will collect and measure public and delegate views on core national issues and nominate a balanced presidential ticket that will bridge the vital center of American public opinion. The Americans Elect nominees will run on the ballot in all 50 states and will be a competitive alternative to candidates put forth by the Democratic and Republican parties.
With this statement, Americans Elect shifted away from an insistence upon bipartisanship. Under this new idea, Americans Elect nominees could both come from one party, or come from no party at all, although somehow they will be “balanced.” What this “balance” refers to is a mystery. Also a mystery in this statement are the two activities of public opinion polling to choose a nominee and delegate voting to choose a nominee. How would the two ideas fit together? Which would take precedence in the event of a conflict?
Some elements within the Americans Elect organization seem to have felt the need for another revision of goals, as reflected in this latest mission statement released at the end of last month:
In order for Americans to enjoy the governance they deserve, Americans Elect will organize an Internet-based convention to nominate a presidential ticket in 2012 that will bridge the vital center of American public opinion.
The winning presidential and vice presidential nominees will be on the ballot in all 50 states and will be a competitive alternative to candidates put forward by the Democratic and Republican parties.
Every registered voter can become a delegate and decide who will run for and who will win the Americans Elect nomination.
Our mission is not to create a permanent third party but instead to empower Americans to choose a viable presidential ticket that is responsive to the vast majority of citizens while remaining independent of the partisan interests of either major party.
Paid for by Americans Elect. Not affiliated with any candidate or candidate committee.
This latest revision subtracts the suggestion of public and delegate opinion polling as part of the nominee selection process, leaving a delegate selection process open to all registered voters as the sole means of choosing a nominee.
The revision adds the commitment to secure the Americans Elect organization — a political corporation wholly funded by one very wealthy man — a spot on the ballot in each of the 50 states. Also added is an explicit commitment that the Americans Elect process will be nonpartisan rather than bipartisan, “remaining independent of the partisan interests of either major party” and not establishing a new political party.
A continuing feature across all versions of the Unity12 Task Force/Americans Elect mission statement is an implicit reference to some sort of policy agenda: a result to “bridge the vital center.” An essential question for Americans Elect to answer as it prepares for its apparent January 2011 launch is whether Americans Elect is an organization determined to produce a desired outcome (a centrist presidential ticket) or an organization determined to produce a desired process (the non-partisan, democratic choice of a presidential ticket). I doubt whether Americans Elect can simultaneously pursue both aims and maintain its integrity.