AE Transparency’s Asymmetric Warfare Letter to Americans Elect (and why I disagree)
Yesterday, AE Transparency sent off a letter to Americans Elect executives Peter Ackerman, Elliot Ackerman and Kahlil Byrd. AE Transparency sent me a copy and has given me permission to reprint that letter here:
In case you’re wondering, we know what comes next…and we’re already prepared to have a field-day with it.
Gentlemen, there is only one honorable move left to you at this point, and it is the one we have been demanding for over a year now: the Board of Directors must resign, in favor of new Directors to be freely, fairly, and democratically elected by AE’s delegates.
Your cost, so far, for this slow-motion train-wreck you are leading — what, something like $30 million? Our cost, so far, to foil you at your every nefarious turn: exactly zero. Asymmetric warfare at its finest. We can keep this up literally forever.
For once, exercise your unlimited power to take or compel any action for good, not evil: quit now, and hand over the keys to people who actually have American democracy’s best interests at heart.
I don’t agree with this letter because I don’t agree with the goals articulated by its writer: 1) to engage in warfare with Americans Elect leaders, and 2) to get hands on the power held by Americans Elect leaders.
Back when Americans Elect was Unity08, I figured out that its inside-the-beltway leaders were going to do what they wanted to do, no matter what us little people said. Unity08 and Americans Elect have been such closed-off organizations that they won’t even talk to us little people. Since the Unity08 days, I’ve given up trying to change the minds of Americans Elect’s leaders or to make them do anything. I certainly don’t want “the keys” of the vehicle they’re driving, either. My goal is different: to obtain and share information about Americans Elect that Americans Elect itself won’t share.
Americans Elect doesn’t have to be “foiled at every turn” or made the target of “asymmetrical warfare.” Aggressive actions against Americans Elect are entirely unnecessary. If Americans Elect had been a better organization living up to its own hype, then sharing information about it would have propelled it forward. But sharing information has instead played a role in stopping Americans Elect, mostly because the information about Americans Elect’s activities has been so embarrassing.
Tomorrow, the second primary round for the nomination of an Americans Elect presidential candidate will have to be cancelled because not one declared or draft candidate has convinced enough people to participate in the Americans Elect process. It seems like a reasonable time to assess why people might be making the choice to stay away, despite all the newspaper and TV and radio appearances Americans Elect has wrangled over the last year. Read this series of over 300 posts for the nitty-gritty documentation. It’s time to take a look at the forest, not the trees.
Is the basic idea trumpeted by Americans Elect a sound one?
That basic idea is that we can get bipartisanship in America by naming a Democrat and a Republican to a joint presidential ticket in which one will be the President and the other will be the Vice President. It’s a basically flawed idea. In the White House, the President has all the power, and the Vice President can’t do anything on his or her own except wait for the President to die. It doesn’t matter who the Vice President is unless the president dies. What matters in an Americans Elect ticket is the President. An Americans Elect presidency would be as partisan as its president.
Americans Elect could have done better by dropping the charade of bipartisanship and letting people pick the candidates they want, representing the policy ideas they favor. But Americans Elect didn’t do that, and people stayed away.
Is Americans Elect transparent?
No. Americans Elect hides the names of its big money donors. Americans Elect won’t publish the minutes of its board meetings. Americans Elect won’t even share its current expenditures. Americans Elect refused to answer questions asked by the public. Frequently, Americans Elect even refused to answer the questions submitted by reporters. In all these ways, Americans Elect does worse than the political parties it says it wants to replace.
Americans Elect could have done better by being honest with the American people about who was funding its operations and where its money was going. It could have communicated with Americans outside the beltway who asked questions. But Americans Elect didn’t do that, and people stayed away.
Does Americans Elect let the people decide?
No. Americans Elect selected its own corporate leadership, and the American people have no right to review or reject that selection. Americans Elect’s corporate board reserves the right to decide which candidates are insiders and which candidates are outsiders, and declared by fiat that outsiders would have to get five times as many signatures to qualify for the ballot as insiders. The American people didn’t get the power to review or reject these decisions. Americans Elect’s corporate board reserves the right to kick a presidential candidate, even a popular one, off the ballot. Americans Elect’s corporate board wrote its own rules in which a few of these decisions can hypothetically be overturned by a majority of all people who’ve ever signed up on its website, but in the two instances where a delegate actually tried to mount just such a protest vote, Americans Elect refused to notify its delegates that the vote existed. Americans Elect does not let the people decide. It is a top-down corporate operation dedicated to enforcing the will of its board of directors.
Americans Elect could have done better by being inclusive and democratic. But Americans Elect didn’t do that, and people stayed away.
Does Americans Elect follow its own rules?
No. Americans Elect has a neutrality policy, but its staffers and its officers and members of its board of directors have not followed that neutrality policy. In the fall of 2011 Americans Elect said it would share information on all of its meetings but repeatedly refuses to publish minutes of meetings, or to publish summaries of decisions in meetings, or even to announce that meetings are scheduled. Americans Elect has changed the rules of its ballot-access vote while the vote has been in progress. Americans Elect has explicitly pledged that its Platform of Questions candidates must answer would be based on which questions were most popular in its “Shape the Debate” forum, but its actual Platform of Questions disregards the popular vote and instead selects a slate of less-popular questions.
Americans Elect could have done better by following its own rules. But Americans Elect didn’t do that, and people stayed away.
If Americans Elect had been transparent, consistent, democratic and accountable, then Americans Elect could have been a political effort worth joining. But Americans Elect was none of that, and people stayed away.
In the 2012 cycle, Americans Elect decided that its operations as Unity08 failed because they weren’t elitist and secretive enough. If it is determined to participate in the 2016 cycle, Americans Elect might want to try moving in the opposite direction.