This much should be said in defense of Americans Elect, the ambitious new venture to place a third party on the presidential ballot in 50 states: It at least defends the idea that there is a vibrant center remaining in American politics. That’s no small thing in a season where both parties have based their strategies on mobilizing the Left and Right respectively, and when the most energetic grassroots forces in the last several years — the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street — denigrate the center as feckless and dishonest.
But virtues aside, Americans Elect is just a decently capitalized start-up that still hasn’t raised enough cash to compete in a California governor’s race, much less a nationwide election. It is ostensibly free from the interest-group matrix that dominates each party, but because its donors don’t have to be disclosed under federal tax law, it’s less transparent than any presidential campaign operation in the modern era. It has constructed a state-of-the-art formula for a virtual online convention to pick a nominee, but has apparently shopped its nomination to every retired or retiring self-described moderate who has done a few terms in the Senate. It is a movement of the “responsible center” whose online followers track Ron Paul — the avatar of a politics that stitches the extreme Right and extreme Left together — more than any other political figure.
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