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Americans Elect Spins Clear Trends on Economy and the Budget into Third Way Centrism

The 501c4 corporation trying to run its own presidential nomination, Americans Elect, keeps insisting that it has no ideology: “Americans Elect doesn’t have an ideology or agenda, either.

But Americans Elect just can’t keep its ideology from leaking out. Check out its latest “news” post in which it rejects the “extremes” of budget policy and calls for a more “moderate” approach:

AE Delegates See Third Way on Budget Deficit

Earlier this week, President Obama announced a proposal called “The Buffett Rule,” named after billionaire Warren Buffett, which raises taxes on households making more than $1 million. The proposal has rekindled debate on whether tax increases should be part of a plan to address the nation’s budget deficit. At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground.

“Class warfare will simply divide this country more. It will attack job creators, divide people and it doesn’t grow the economy,” said Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, who believes the budget deficit should be addressed only with spending cuts, not tax hikes.

But Erica Payne, whose Agenda Project favors Obama’s proposal, said, “This issue is not complicated. It is not nuanced. If you care about your country, you pay taxes. If your country is in trouble, you pay more taxes.”

A Forbes article this week reports, “According to a compilation of 27 polls conducted between Nov. 26, 2010 and as recent as Sept. 16, 2011, U.S. voters unanimously prefer higher taxes over no tax hikes and strict spending cuts as a means to reduce the deficit.”

We’ve asked Americans Elect delegates about this issue, and found that 80 percent favor some combination of spending cuts and tax increases. In other words, while this issue is often presented as black-and-white, it seems AE delegates have shunned those extremes in favor of a more moderate view.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the political process acknowledged that Americans come in more colors than red and blue?

There is more than a bit of stretching going on here. To start off with, it is true that Republican budget proposals seek to avoid tax increases altogether — House Speaker John Boehner has declared them to be “off the table.” On the other hand, the characterization of President Barack Obama’s budget plan as avoiding spending cuts is wildly inaccurate. Obama’s plan includes hundreds of billions of dollars in spending cuts, many of them objectionable to liberals (including this one). Barack Obama’s plan already displays “centrist” ideology in that regard, but that doesn’t fit the Americans Elect plan to create a marketing niche for its candidate… so Americans Elect must incompletely characterize Obama’s plan, then label it as one of the “extremes” to be fixed by electing a new Americans Elect corporate President.

Moving on to the characterization of American opinion, we can look at the “True Colors” feature to which Americans Elect refers. In the “True Colors” process, Americans Elect has asked people to provide answers to policy questions (and to date Americans Elect claims to have to collected 5,271,692 answers). It is true that looking at responses to just one question in the True Colors process “80 percent favor some combination of spending cuts and tax increases.” But look at the more specific breakdown of answers to Americans Elect’s question…

… and you’ll see that the set of people indicating they’d like to have more tax hikes than spending cuts is 55%, while the set of people indicating they’d like to have more spending cuts than tax hikes is 42% — a 13% gap. In 48 out of the 50 states, the option for more tax increases than spending cuts was the most popular.

There are other questions Americans Elect asked about the politics of taxation and spending:

“In hard economic times, should the government…”
* Spend more to stimulate the economy… 60% — the most popular answer in every state
* Cut spending in order to balance the budget … 24%

Americans Elect didn’t publicize the answer to that question.

“Do you think the government should cut taxes to create jobs or spend more to create jobs?”
* Cut taxes… 12%
* Spend more… 44% — the most popular answer in every state

Americans Elect didn’t publicize the answer to that question.

“Thinking about taxes, which of the statements below is closest to your opinion?”
* All Americans should pay the same rate: rich, poor, and middle class alike… 26%
* Poorer Americans should pay a lower rate than richer or middle class Americans… 69% — the most popular answer in every state
* Richer Americans should pay a lower rate than poorer or middle class Americans… 1%

Americans Elect didn’t publicize the answer to that question.

“Given the budget deficits the federal government is running up to combat the current economic conditions, do you think taxes should be increased on any of the following items in order to help reduce federal budget deficits?”
* Cigarettes… 13%
* Alcohol… 5%
* Soft drinks… 7%
* Gasoline… 6%
* All of the above… 42%
* None of the above… 24%

Americans Elect didn’t publicize the answer to that question.

“Would you be willing to pay more in taxes to ___________ and if so, how much?”

maintain the U.S. military:
* No… 65% — the most popular answer in 48 states
* Yes(by various amounts)… 35%

maintain Medicare:
* No… 23%
* Yes(by various amounts)… 77%

maintain Social Security:
* No… 26%
* Yes(by various amounts)… 74%

maintain Medicaid:
* No… 25%
* Yes(by various amounts)… 75%

maintain education programs:
* No… 14%
* Yes(by various amounts)… 86%

Americans Elect didn’t publicize the answer to those questions.

The writing of its skewed publicity release with missing and misleadingly presented information doesn’t mark the first time Americans Elect has let its centrist ideological tendencies slip out. Earlier this spring Americans Elect released a video in which the corporation claimed to inhabit the “center” of American ideological spectrum and promoted a presidential candidate representing the “sensible center.”

In its rollout to the public, Americans Elect has been doing three things:

1. Americans Elect is describing itself as a process that allows for the content-neutral selection of a presidential candidate.

2. Americans Elect has written corporate bylaws for itself describing a procedure by which its leaders — drawn overwhelmingly from wealth-management and hedge fund circles — will be able to intervene at multiple points in the candidate-selection process.

3. Americans Elect is declaring itself to be free of ideology but occasionally letting ideological advocacy — consistently in favor of “centrist” ideas in the economic sphere — slip out.

These are not entirely compatible activities. If Americans Elect wants to be taken seriously by serious people, it’s going to have to decide what it really is and be a little bit — no, a lot — more upfront about it. If you don’t see Americans Elect make that move, it will be an indication that it isn’t serious or that it just doesn’t care.

11 thoughts on “Americans Elect Spins Clear Trends on Economy and the Budget into Third Way Centrism”

  1. tiradefaction says:

    Of course they’re not going to publicize those results. For the past 10 years, these constant calls for “centrism” have always been done by socially apathetic/liberal/libertarian individuals who hold centre right economic views. They’re libertarian lite. Like the die hard libertarians who believe the “free” market is the solution to about everything under the sun, they stress cut backs, looser government regulation, and market solutions, whilst not giving a shit about shoving JEEZUS down the throat of our communities and lives. Instead, they don’t ideologically believe in “Free Markets”, but they stress in the long run, “lower taxes”, “market based solutions”, and “dissolution of labor unions” (or whatever term/euphemism they want to use in that regard). The funny thing is, the public in general, when gauged on individual issues without labels, tends to range on the centre left economically, and centre right socially. That’s the problem with trying to monopolize and unify the “center” in one force, they disagree as much as the people in the wings, and when it comes to economics, the people paying for this organization simply don’t share the public’s views.

    Still, it might work in the long run if they appeal long enough to Americans ignorance of the realignment our politics have embarked on for the past 30 years.

  2. Ralph says:

    I just perused Americans Elect’s “nine core questions.” I’m not impressed. They tend to state things in simplistic generalities, and phrase things such that no reasonable person would say anything but “somewhere in the middle.”

    Take for example the question “ENVIRONMENT: What is your stance on our use of natural resources? Do you think it exists for the benefit of humanity or should it be completely protected or a combination of both?”

    Now, that’s just a mess or a question. As phrased, it asks whether our use of natural resources exists for the benefit of humanity or whether it should be protected. I’m going to assume it’s just sloppy writing and they meant to ask whether natural resources exist for the benefit of humanity, or whether natural resources should be protected.

    Do natural resources “exist for the benefit of humanity?” What does that even mean? If I want to answer no, I suppose I would have to come up with a rationale to explain how, say, air doesn’t benefit human beings, or that is doesn’t exist. So, I can’t really go with that.

    Well then, should natural resources be “completely protected?” If I say yes, does that mean I’m against any person using any natural resources at all? No human use of minerals, farm land, water, air? At all? Well, I can’t really go with that, can I?

    So golly gosh. Looks like I’m…somewhere in the MIDDLE. I must be a CENTRIST.

    Actually, of course, my “centrist” response to the question is meaningless because the “extremes” between which I fall are so utterly absurd and meaningless.

    That’s one of the big weaknesses of Americans Elect. They seem to have such a visceral disdain for any views that aren’t “centrist” that they see the “extreme” views as utterly absurd cartoonish things, utterly devoid of meaning.

    The sad and rather bizarre thing is, they see the “centrist” solution as a position bisecting a line drawn between two utterly absurd extremes. Is that really where you go to look for solutions to problems?

    1. Jim says:

      I’m glad you noticed the P.R. release by Americans Elect declaring what the “Core Questions” are. Another determination of what matters and what doesn’t matter made by corporate center on behalf of the little people. This merits a separate post.

  3. Tom says:

    Unless it’s local politics (and even then it would have to involve every family or adult, 15 and up, who lives there to agree on each issue effecting the community) it will not work. As we’ve seen, the vested interest groups, specifically Wall Street, the Big Banks (that we’ve bailed out against our will), corporate America and the uber-wealthy have pretty much gamed the system now to the point that democracy no longer works as designed. Our politicians are “owned” now and don’t work on our behalf – as we see time and time again (though we write in, phone and show up at their local offices to express our dissatisfaction, they continue to move all issues to the hard-line right). President Obama was supposed to change all that, but failed miserably and now we’re nearly at the edge of collapse (economically; and environmentally it isn’t much better and will only get worse due to inaction).

    So vote all you want, but it won’t do any good. The country, like the world, is on a unsustainable path and headed for calamity.

  4. Lee Mortimer says:

    The logic is a little difficult to follow, but I think we’re being told that Americans Elect is doing two things it shouldn’t be. One is distorting the political predilections of its delegates to be more “centrist” than their answers to AE’s questionnaire would suggest. And then claiming to be “free of ideology” when, in fact, AE often describes itself as having a “centrist ideology.”

    Well, AE is probably is doing those things, but I fail to see why we should be particularly concerned. If AE exaggerates about its delegates being more “centrist” than they actually are, it’s because they are trying to carve a political niche for themselves–in between Republicans on the right and Democrats on the left. Would we expect AE to point to its delegates and say, “They’re further to the left than Democrats.”

    The “centrist ideology” issue has always been a puzzlement to me because it’s hard to put your finger on what that would be. To most people, “centrist” would suggest the absence of any ideology. The “ideologues” are those guys pretty far out on the left or right ends of the political spectrum. Centrists tend to fit rather comfortably in the middle and derive their ideas from both sides.

    Bottom line: AE is actually pretty amorphous and really doesn’t represent anything very specific. And It will likely remain so until AE nominates candidates for president and vice president. At that point, AE will take on a more specific identity and character that will be defined by its nominees and the political direction they take. Until then, AE is in a public relations phase to show there is political ground for it to operate in.

    1. Juniper says:

      If Americans Elect is amorphous, it’s because that’s the impression its public relations campaign is trying to create. The leadership of Americans Elect is not amorphous. It’s centralized. The sources of money that keep Americans Elect running are not amorphous. They’re associated with risky Wall Street investment schemes. The actual ideological agenda of Americans Elect is not amorphous either. It’s to benefit the corporations and wealthy Americans, giving corporate leaders a new route to access and control political leaders in Washington D.C.

      1. Anonymous says:

        Oh, Please. Is there a corporatist behind every bush and under every bed?

        1. Lee Mortimer says:

          Sorry, I had commented from another computer. That’s me above.

  5. Anonymous says:

    First and foremost I think we as Americans owe this website a humble thanks for it’s tireless nagging for the truth about one of the most shady operations in my lifetime. I have to admit that I was duped and sucked into the rhetoric of AE in the beginning; knowing little to nothing about who or what was actually involved. During this time I incredibly came upon a post on Facebook by an old high school friend who promoted AE and mentioned that she was working on this new project with her boyfriend. We exchanged a few typed words of excitement and that was that. Until around a week later when I received a bulk e-mail from AE and responded to the volunteer e-mail address provided. This put me through to the e-mail of Kellen Arno who is referred to as the national director for AE. As it turns out I live in the same town where his uncle, Peter Arno, heads up what is being called Americans Elect NW division. And guess who his girlfriend was? Yup it was the same person I am friends with on Facebook. I could not pass up this opportunity to find out a little more about this little known but interesting group so I touted my technical expertise and set up a personal meeting with Peter Arno, brother of Michael Arno of Arno Political Consultants and less known Capitol Links. Then it was time to do my homework. It took a bit of tinkering but I eventually was able to locate the business website of Capitol Links and what I found was shocking and made my heart stop. Capitol Links alone has worked for unspeakably evil government entities as well as on behalf of corporations such as Wal-Mart, big tobacco and many more. To top it off Kellen Arno himself worked directly for the Bush Administration and for Jeb Bush. Now I was beginning to think these people were as sleezy as they appeared in their profile pictures. When I met with Peter Arno a few days ago he had just flown in from Washington DC and something about him was not right from the beginning. He astonishingly assured me that even though the organization was in his view being portrayed as having a strictly liberal agenda that in fact it had some “very powerful” people and corporate interests behind it. He went on to inform me that I should expect to see some things that would surely be appalling but not to be concerned about the bad press as it was just “part of the process”. Currently I am posing as consultant and technical adviser to Peter Arno of AE NorthWest and am running his twitter and facebook accounts. These people are only of the conservative right wing agenda and in my view out to cipher progressive votes in the 2012 election. The strategy is to rely on discontent and play off of statistical trends in order to spoil the election process just as they may very well have been involved in the key strategy of ruining the American economy in order to line their clients pocket books. Please feel free to e-mail me with any and all questions at

  6. Lee Mortimer says:

    There are some press releases issued by AE on Friday (URL below) that Jim might want to dissect for us. Also, Michael Bloomberg was asked on Meet the Press today about a third party presidential bid. He said, “A third party candidacy is not viable in this country, and I won’t be a third party candidate.” That doesn’t mean he won’t run, but it sounded like a pretty definitive statement.

  7. Lee Mortimer says:

    To Anonymous: Your information is certainly intriguing, and I don’t necessarily dispute anything you are saying about AE. I must say that AE has to be incredibly clueless for you to have provided so much identifying information about yourself on this website, while being highly critical of AE (“shady operation,” “sleazy,” “truly evil,” “appalling”), and yet you are able to continue “posing as a consultant and technical advisor” to a top AE operative (presumably for pay)–and they’ll remain oblivious of your undercover activities!

    Again, because I am not privy to any of the information you claim to have ferreted out, I am not disputing your findings. Still, I ask myself the question–what is AE’s ultimate game plan? Even if, as you assert, it’s all a stealth effort to engineer a left-leaning spoiler ticket to split the progressive vote and hand the election to the Republicans–do they really need to go to the time and expense of mounting a ballot access campaign in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to accomplish their goal? Wouldn’t it be at least as productive to invest their effort and resources into directly supporting the Republican ticket?

    But let’s say that a spoiler ticket is their objective–and that AE succeeds in maneuvering an online convention of left-leaning delegates into nominating a dream progressive ticket of Dennis Kucinich and Bernie Sanders–or maybe Jill Stein in the mix. I submit there would be value in that. All the progressive issues like ending war, single-payer health care, environmental protection, labor rights, protecting the social safety net–all the priorities that have been dangerously neglected by the Obama administration’s caving into GOP demands–would get a full and fair airing before the American people.

    Bottom line: nothing that could happen in even the most extreme scenario of an Americans Elect run amok could leave us any worse off than going to the polls Nov. 6, 2012 and having to choose between the current two pro-corporate, sell-out-to-Wall Street choices that will await us.

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