The Colbert Report Wednesday night featured Elliot Ackerman as a guest, promoting a simple, utterly obvious idea - let people directly decide a Presidential candidate through the internet, without involvement from political parties or special interests. Ackerman’s first moment that struck me: “Technology and social media have opened up all facets of our lives…Politics is one of the few places where you still have to decide between Brand A and Brand B.” I love the attempt by AmericansElect.org to alter the 2 party system without government involvement in election reform. How many elections have been a decision between the lesser of two evils? Any cause working to solve that dilemma is a noble one. The other great moment (he got a nice audience cheer from this line): ”What we want to do is leverage our newest technologies to get us back to some of our oldest values, which is letting every voter participate in a meaningful way in a primary.” What’s not to like?
Ackerman’s website, AmericansElect.org, is still in its early stages, but the ball is rolling, and the Colbert Bump will help. The site goes through 4 stages:
- Define your priorities
- Shape the debate
- Choose the candidates
- Cast your vote
Right now you can only interact with #1. You define your priorities among the following broad subjects: social issues, education, foreign policy, healthcare, economy, immigration, and energy. I put the economy, education, and energy as my top priorities. What follows is a simple, seemingly unbiased questionnaire helping to define your beliefs. Currently there are 64 questions, and I rocketed through them in about 10 minutes. You can’t change your answers, but that will probably change soon, as the large feedback tab on the side of the screen allows you to submit ideas for the developers to implement.
I’m cautiously optimistic about the website. Not because of the website itself — the design is appealing, it incorporates “badges” (always a fun way to encourage involvement), and it promotes independent thinking about the issues facing our country. What most concerns me is nationwide support for the idea. While they are close to getting their candidate on the ballot in every state, I’m concerned the media/political elite/special interests will suppress knowledge of this candidate. They’ll be relegated to 1-2% of the total vote, and nothing will change.