Monday, April 2, 2012

Gail Collins Critique of Americans Elect – Rejoinder Americans Elect Fights Back

A cute little pixy jester who writes for the New York Times recently wrote that what “makes our current politics particularly awful isn’t procedural.” She blames it all on the extremists in the Republican Party. She opines that Americans Elect is not only a mere “fantasy… But it’s too dangerous.” For her, “the whole Americans Elect concept is delusional…” and a cyber temptation for people with a “purity of heart” to waste their votes on “Fred Website.” In her view, the only way to save the nation is to re-elect Barack Obama.

In just a few hours, this opinion drew so many comments (close to 400) for and against that the NYT closed the comments section.

So, here is a comment from AE Delegate, Don Gordon, that didn’t get passed the gate before it was shut. (It’s followed by a few of other comments, as well.)

Well Gail, you should know that I’m a regular subscriber to the NYT and I’m also a Delegate Leader for Americans Elect here in Illinois. From time to time I find your opinions quite lucent and on target. Today is not one of those moments. When I opened the paper this afternoon – yes, I’m one of those dinosaurs who still read the tactile version of the NYT – I was quite dismayed that your opinions on Americans Elect were so off the target. There are so many misconceptions in your short piece that I have to be diligent in not writing a tome in response.

So, let me start by saying that overall you make the same mistake that many others have, though a few get it right. That mistake is to evaluate Americans Elect on what it is attempting to do immediately and to ignore the long term implications. You’re to be forgiven for that because our political system is so banged up that expectations are extremely high for any organization that comes along to make a change to repair that system. Part of the problem lies with Americans Elect as well. [AE spokesperson,] Ms. Malm should have made the point that not only is this about “disruption for the good” but it’s about setting in play “future disruption”. There are lessons to be learned once this is over, and those are going to be valuable lessons that Americans Elect is creating and will inform future initiatives such as this. Now on to some of your quotes…

Gail: “History suggests that this election could be decided by a small number of votes…”
Don: Ok, here we go down the rabbit hole of don’t vote for the other 3rd, 4th, 5th party candidate because they could upset MY candidate from winning – what is becoming known as the “Nader Effect”. Really, Ms. Collins? Well, I’m appalled at that assessment. Your job, my job, everyone else’s job as the electorate is to assess the candidates based on their qualifications – not party labels – and to vote for whom we think is the best qualified not the one who has the best chance of winning. And that last notion may eventually go down in the Republican dialogue as the “Romney Effect”.

Gail: “The whole Americans Elect concept is delusional…we the people are good and pure and if only we were allowed to just pick the best person…”
Don: What is delusional – actually insane by Ben Franklin’s estimation – is that we continue to cough up the same old, same old candidate choices because the Republican-Democratic Party Politburo limits our choices and prevents others from gaining any traction whatsoever regardless of how qualified they may be. To continue to pick from the pre-ordained party hacks in expectation that the system will get better is not only delusional, it is indeed insanity.

Gail: “Buddy Roemer, the former governor of Louisiana whose candidacy was so deeply unsuccessful that he couldn’t even qualify for the debates…”
Don: And should he or anyone else for that matter on the Americans Elect ticket or the Green Party or the Libertarian Party achieve ballot access in most the 50 states, they will still be denied access to the Presidential debates if they don’t achieve a 15% polling as dictated by the Republican-Democratic Party Politburo’s communication arm – The Commission On Presidential Debates.

Finally, and this is my favorite faux pas that I hear so often:
Gail: “There is the opportunity to create a presidential nominee who will promise to bring us all together … Barack Obama.”
Don: Well, you’re either delusional or naïve. I voted for Barack and I certainly didn’t drink the Kool-Aid that he – a Democrat – was going to take his partisan ideologies into Washington and convince all those Republicans that they’re on the wrong side of the aisle. I voted for Barack because he could put two sentences together and would keep the rest of the world from viewing us as some bunch of crazed cowboys. Did you really drink the Kool-Aid, Gail? Because it certainly appears from this article that you did…

Thanks, Don! Somebody needs to start fighting back for AE. RE Gail's claim that our problem is "not procedural," here are a couple of comments that did get included following Gail’s essay:

One “JRHCarmel” commented in the NYT,
“The greatest aspect of the Americans Elect process is enabling voters to match their views against those of the candidates based on a battery of policy questions that the candidates must answer. Most voters would like to tune out all the divisive rhetoric and pandering and determine which candidates most closely reflect their views without pundits, ads, or party elites directing their choices. The more of us who participate in AE, the more quickly it will evolve toward a process that places the needs of voters ahead of parties.”

Another comment in the NYT by “W.A. SpitzerFaywood,” states, in part,
“The major problem is the two party primary system which tends to select fringe candidates. This is amplified by the fact that more than a third of the voters consider themselves to be independents, and in many states are prohibited from voting in the party primaries.” His “solution” is to have a national primary, very much like the one AE is now offering. “This would force the candidates to run more toward the center where the majority of voters are truly represented, and would therefore select more moderate candidates; it would prevent a candidate from winning a general election unless they had at least 50% of the votes; and by having one primary rather than two it would not subsidies party politics, and would be less expensive.”

Finally, another critique of the NYT article comes from Laurence J. Kotlikoff, Candidate for President on the AE website

As to Ms. Collins’s fear that AE might result in votes being drawn away from Obama, Mr. Kotlikoff writes
“Gail, … Fear is no basis for choosing our leaders. Americans Elect may be the country's only hope of staving off indefinite political gridlock and watching the country continue to slide down hill. [You need to educate yourself.] For starters you could look at the policies I lay out, [and] the policy plans of the other declared candidates on Americans Elect. … America's future is no joke.”

Way to go, Laurence! Come on AE supporters, more of us need to start fighting back!

“Death to the Two-Party System!”

William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.
Political Scientist, author, speaker,
CEO for The Internet Voting Research and Education Fund, a CA Nonprofit Foundation
Twitter: wjkno1

Author of Internet Voting Now!
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