Understanding Americans Elect—or at least trying to

March 21, 2012

Depending on whom you believe, Americans Elect is either a) a third party b) a centrist group or c) a presidential election spoiler. If you picked any of those three, you wouldn't be entirely right, but then again you wouldn't be entirely wrong.

Listen to a discussion on this post from Eight Forty-Eight

Don Gordon, a delegate leader for Americans Elect who teaches political science at Northwestern University, calls it a "movement" to overhaul a primary system dominated by political machines and special interests; its COO Elliot Ackerman recently told MSNBC that AE is an attempt for politicians and the public to "have a voice which doesn't have to modulate between the two parties."

This much we know for sure: Come June, AE says it will host a national primary. The nomination process—done exclusively online—will produce a presidential ticket, potentially, as the media likes to point out, a bipartisan one.

With the rise of Super PACs and a drawn-out Republican primary, the idea seems appealing or at least provocative. But, will it actually work?

The pitch convinced Jackie Freeman, a suburban woman who's worked on both Republican and Democratic campaigns. She currently serves as AE's co-director of the Great Lakes region. In a recent conversation, Freeman, who identifies as a moderate Republican, said she grew disillusioned by the extremism of both parties. A former California resident, she doesn't understand why the Golden State and Illinois would have less say in the nominating process than a few thousand Iowans.

Longtime journalist David Yepsen, now a professor at Southern Illinois University, has his doubts. Independent campaigns don't exactly have a track record for success. Others raise concerns about AE's anonymous donors.

Yepsen, along with Jackie Freeman and Don Gordon come on Eight Forty-Eight to discuss Americans Elect and examine whether the voting public has the desire to change the political system.