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7 Very Bad Predictions About Americans Elect

The would-be third political force Americans Elect wowed elites with its promise to run an independent, centrist candidate, but instead it spent millions to go nowhere. Who could have seen that coming? Not these folks.

Posted on May 15, 2012, at 11:56 a.m. ET

1. Thomas Friedman / Via

Write it down: Americans Elect. What did to books, what the blogosphere did to newspapers, what the iPod did to music, what did to pharmacies, Americans Elect plans to do to the two-party duopoly that has dominated American political life — remove the barriers to real competition, flatten the incumbents and let the people in. Watch out.

2. John Heilemann / Via

The electoral dynamics on which Americans Elect is seizing are tectonic and have been gathering force for many years, and if the group’s online convention produces a compelling ticket—a big if, to be sure—it could produce the first viable independent presidential bid since Ross Perot’s.

3. Matt Miller / Via

The structure of the presidential selection process matters because the constituencies it empowers, and the incentives it creates, shape the debate.

This is why the Americans Elect process has so much potential power. The idea that we could be freed from having candidates chosen by a handful of zealots in either party and, instead, have millions of Americans pick candidates directly via a secure online process would be transformative. And this year is just the test run.

4. Lawrence Lessig / Via

For those of us who believe that the corruption of this government is the issue these candidates must address, Americans Elect could be an important opportunity: 10,000 clicks from 10 states could begin a candidate in the process towards winning the AE nomination. If a number of serious candidates vie for that nomination, it could get the attention of a politics-starved media necessary to excite the imagination of at least 15 percent of the public. And if it does that, then there is a straight path to getting what we most need now: The attention to this critical issue that solving it will depend upon.

5. John Avlon / Via

The bottom line: Americans Elect is a bold idea that might be slightly ahead of its time. But it is a direct attempt to address the polarization compounded by the primaries, offering an accessible alternative. There are self-interested and cynical reasons for people in Washington wanting to see it fail. But if the problems of hyperpartisanship concern you, their effort is at the least worth your attention. After all, a little more competition never hurt anyone—except the people trying to defend the status quo.

6. Curtis Gans / Via

The conventional wisdom is that such an effort is doomed to failure, as all other such efforts in American history have been. That judgment may turn out to be correct.

But I believe that this time the conventional wisdom may turn out to be wrong, and the independent candidacies the Americans Elect online delegates select might win.

7. Nathan Daschle / Via

[I]t relieves us of anachronistic structures that harm our political system. It's the iTunes of politics.

Status quo apologists and those who benefit from partisan gridlock might pooh-pooh this idea, particularly if the candidate doesn't get to Ross Perot levels in November. But these critics miss the point. Americans Elect is not just about running for the White House in 2012. It's about electing our leaders in a new way so that the governed are truly consenting.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.