Americans Elect, Part II: A Shell Game Designed to Block Real Democratic Participation
A group called Americans Elect is currently in Oregon, attempting to gather the 21,804 valid signatures it needs in order to be recognized as a political party in the state. Its goal is to hold a presidential primary on the internet, open to any “delegate” who signs up on the group’s website.
Americans Elect has draped itself in language about the power of regular people to use the internet to directly nominate a presidential candidate, accountable to the public, not to political parties or “special interests.”
In our last post, we described how Americans Elect has received most of its $20 million to $30 million in secret donations directly from wealthy special interests. Today, we’ll look at the various ways the public could actually be shut out of the nominating process. (Much of this evidence has been indispensably collected by Jim Cook at Irregular Times.)
Self-Appointed Board Runs The Whole Show
If you thought a few dozen multimillionaire hedge fund managers were planning on giving away control to the unwashed masses, you’ve got another thing coming. Americans Elect’s self-selected Board of Directors retains most of the authority of the group by design, and has put up obstacles to limit the choices available to “delegates.” In short, their internet primary would be, by design, far less democratic than any existing nominating process.
According to the group’s bylaws, a “Candidate Certification Committee” will have the power to determine who can run for the Americans Elect nomination.
The Committee determines whether candidates are constitutionally eligible to run. But here’s where it gets interesting: The Committee will also “develop and apply criteria of demonstrated achievements based on qualifications of past presidents and vice presidents to ensure that only persons capable of performing the duties of president and vice president are eligible for voting by the registered Delegates, subject only to a two thirds vote to the contrary by all registered Delegates…”
In other words: The Committee has almost unbounded authority to determine whether a candidate can run, based on whether they are “capable of performing the duties” of the office. And if Americans Elect’s members disagree with their ruling, the only way it can be overturned is with a two-thirds vote of ALL delegates--a seemingly impossible feat.
And who appoints the members of the Candidate Certification Committee? The self-selected Board of Directors, made up of multimillionaire investors, who can fire committee members at any time for any reason.
Americans Elect “delegates” get to vote from a list of candidates that a small handful of millionaires decide is qualified to run. So much for a groundbreaking process that gives all the power to the public.
Keep Quiet, Or You’re Out
The Board of Directors and its appointed committees have the power to write all of the rules that govern the organization. In fact, the only way delegates can change the rules by a vote of two-thirds of all delegates.
Jim Cook said it best: “Because most people who sign up for any account online never use it, the possibility of a two-thirds vote of all Delegates on any matter stands somewhere between slim and nil. Unless the two-thirds ‘ratification’ rule is changed, Americans Elect Delegates will appear to ratify everything the Board of Directors sends their way, even if a majority of active Delegates stand in opposition.”
Chances are, you might not even get that far. The bylaws give wide authority to the Board to revoke the voting rights of any member.
Again, Jim Cook:
In order to become a delegate, you’ll have to sign a written document first, a Pledge that takes the form of a loyalty oath. If you don’t “support the purpose of Americans Elect,” then under the Americans Elect system you can be prohibited from voting. If you don’t offer sufficient “respect,” then you can be prohibited from voting. If you show any “incivility,” then you can be prohibited from voting. And if you offer any “personal disparagement of any other Member or Delegate,” which would include Americans Elect leadership, then you can be tossed off the Americans Elect voter rolls.
Under the newly articulated Americans Elect system, dissent, criticism, the sharing of accurate information that puts Americans Elect leadership in a bad light, being unsure if Americans Elect is the right way to go, or even asking uncomfortable questions can bring you into the offender’s zone, punishable by disenfranchisement. Isn’t that about sixty years out of date, buried along with Senator Joe McCarthy?
And even beyond the vague, written criteria the Board could use to give you the boot, the Board also “shall reserve extraordinary authority and power to take or compel any action necessary to assure that the purpose of Americans Elect is not defeated by the acts or omissions of any persons or parties.”
In short, a handful of wealth managers gets to choose the candidates you can vote for, and if you disagree with the process or raise any criticism, you lose your voting privileges. Kinda makes this statement on their about page a wee bit laughable:
“With Americans Elect, you have the power to choose leadership that puts country before party, and America's interests before special interests. You have the power to change politics as usual.”
Check back every day this week for more in this series, where we'll look more closely at who’s behind Americans Elect, who’s gathering signatures in Oregon, and which prominent celebrity they’re closely associated with.