Via Meadia has steered clear of the various ephemera dominating news coverage of the campaign season (such as the current hubbub over Ann Romney’s alleged Hitlerian overtones on motherhood). Over at BuzzFeed, Rebecca Elliot, writing about Americans Elect, reminds us why we feel so comfortable ignoring the punditocracy.Americans Elect bills itself as a grass-roots organization that aims to promote a third-party candidacy. After spending $35 million and signing up more than 420,000 “online delegates,” however, the group has a slight problem: it still has no candidate and doesn’t look likely to field one. (Over at Slate, Dave Weigel has a witty recap of the all-too-predictable meltdown.)In “7 Very Bad Predictions About Americans Elect,” Elliot chronicles just how wrong some of the fashionable media elites were on this one. A sampling:
Thomas Friedman (NY Times)Write it down: Americans Elect. What Amazon.com did to books, what the blogosphere did to newspapers, what the iPod did to music, what drugstore.com 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.Matt Miller (Washington Post)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.
All one can say at this point is HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. It’s one of the oldest lessons of American politics: when you see a worthy and earnest effort supported by high minded centrist intellectuals and pundits — get ready for a big belly laugh when it flops. Americans hate most politicians and despise party establishments, but we like our Barnum and Bailey, three ring circus style of politics. We kind of like the idea that our political process works more like “American Idol” than like the College of Cardinals. We might not like John Edwards and Newt Gingrich very much, but we prefer a political process that features people like them to something more worthy — but less human. Don’t give us a college civics textbook: Give us “Tippeecanoe and Tyler Too!” or “Ma, Ma, Where’s My Pa?”We don’t want to disintermediate the political process any more than we have; it is too much fun laughing at its absurdities. And we have the sneaking suspicion that the earnest reformers are wrong. Our problems aren’t difficult because, as they so piously and so earnestly tell us, our politics are polarized. Our politics are polarized because our problems are hard.