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Competing Biographies of Americans Elect Leadership: Can This Presidential Effort Contain Multitudes?

What life stories shall we tell of the two primary leaders of a new political party determined to put its own candidates in the White House?

When describing Peter Ackerman (the sole funder, Chairman and President of Americans Elect), it is accurate to describe him as a business libertarian sitting on the board of the Cato Institute, someone who made his fortune as a corporate takeover artist, the head of a private wealth management firm, and before that as the disciple to the junk bond king Michael Milken. But it is also accurate to describe him as the author of the massive tome A Force More Powerful, a book of social history passionately advocating the position that nonviolent activism by the dispossessed can fundamentally reorder societies, even in the face of violent government opposition.

When describing Americans Elect Director and Chief Operating Officer Kahlil Byrd, it is fair to describe him as a political insider, serving as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations along with Peter Ackerman and a consultant who has skipped across party lines to massage the message of many Massachusetts campaigns. But it’s also fair to describe him as a former reporter for the BBC and NPR who went on to cofound the African Public Broadcasting Foundation, a group determined to launch a non-profit news network in the African continent.

Insiderism and profit or populism and public service? Which side of these biographies will be reflected in the work of Americans Elect after it launches its public presidential bid in early 2011? Or will Americans Elect reflect all of these? Can Americans Elect contain multitudes?

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