On October 23rd in Chicago, presidential candidates Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, Jill Stein of the Green Party, Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party, and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party will appear on stage together and participate in the most comprehensive cross-party presidential debate of the 2012 election. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama didn’t want to appear at this debate because to do so would muddy the waters of the narrow ideological stream within which they both work.
It’s fair to assume that we’ll hear a good number of questions at this debate about reforms to the processes of the presidential election. Some of these will probably be softballs for the four candidates on the stage, in which they’ll get to preach about the injustice of the dominance of the Democrats and Republicans, and rally the audience to cheers.
One question on the electoral process that needs to be asked won’t be so easy for all the candidates. The four alternative party presidential candidates need to be asked about Americans Elect.
Americans Elect is a political party that was established and is sustained with Wall Street money and is controlled, in spite of its promises of grassroots empowerment, by just three extremely wealthy people. This political party attempted and failed to use Wall Street cash to manipulate the presidential election, but is still actively seeking to manipulate other elections, including the U.S. Senate election in Maine this year.
Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson needs to explain why he embraced the Americans Elect Party earlier this year, using the resources of the Americans Elect infrastructure in spite of his earlier pledge not to accept corporate support for his campaign. Libertarian Gary Johnson needs to offer a coherent argument for how the deregulation-happy libertarian philosophy can address the highly unethical practices of a political party like Americans Elect.
If a question about Americans Elect is asked, it’s not likely to be a comfortable moment for many in the room, because a good number of third party activists were tempted by the illusory offer by Americans Elect to serve as a channel for an alternative set of political candidates. Americans Elect used the same kind of language that genuine grassroots political outsiders have been using for a generation, but did so in order to promote the interests of the most powerful financial insiders in this country.
The effort by Wall Street to co-opt the ideas of the third party movement is a problem that every third party candidate needs to address in public. The way that the candidates deal with this question would demonstrate a good deal about whether they could be trusted to remain true to their stated political ideals if they were to be elected to public office.