It's only a matter of time when the right combination of political message and social networking will capture the imagination of enough people to bring in a successful new party to American politics. And it will happen, in part, when this group admits that they are actually a political party!
The notion of the Internet “start up” is already legendary. You know the story, the one about the person with an idea that harnesses the power of technology and how it takes off to bring them, and their investors, billions of dollars. A similar vision is emerging in our democratic system but with policy entrepreneurs seeking to make their mark with politics in the United States.
Political “start ups” have been emerging. Most recent are, NO Labels and Americans Elect, respectively. Both decry the current state of partisanship and are trying to appeal to moderate voters. These efforts are web-based organizing but stop short of declaring themselves a new party.
I attended the NO Labels kick off in New York City last year. It was impressive. They had Mayor Michael Bloomberg there along with former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and other major politicians. New York Times columnist David Brooks gave the key-note. No Labels seeks to have local chapters advocate centrist issues to lawmakers. This is a version of Meetup, the social networking tool that broke a lot of ground in the 2004 Democratic presidential primary.
Americans Elect have their eye on the ballot line itself and are planning an on-line nominating convention for voters to pick a presidential ticket next spring. This innovation means that Americans Elect are leading in transforming the presidential nominating system – a process that many say is failing. Some states are even cutting the funding for presidential nominations.
Even though the fundamental function of a political party is to nominate candidates, and their nominees will appear on the ballot with the Americans Elect imprimatur – this group still claims they’re not a party! Regardless, they are offering people a “party like” buy-in. Their site offers:
“As a Delegate, you will help shape the rules, craft the platform of key questions the candidates must answer, and ultimately choose the nominees. You also can draft your favorite leaders to run”.
It will be interesting to watch what nominees of an on-line convention will do with the mantle of Americans Elect and the crucial ballot access the group is gaining in individual states.
At this point, NO Labels and Americans Elect give a glimpse of the potential for democracy in the digital age.
Like the commercial realm, there’s risk in new ventures where many ideas won’t take off, while others can soar. The Internet is rooted in association. People are coming together on-line regarding any endeavor imaginable. They’re banding together, creating groups, forming leagues or societies & networking. Call it what you will, if it’s a political association, I still say it’s a party.
(I have devised a template for a web-based party. The idea is rooted in letting members have ownership).