Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Reflections on Americans Elect

I was intrigued by Nick Troiano's presentation today in our #ElectionClass. Especially during a class day reserved for discussing online/social identities, I was perplexed by a speaker and an organization that have yet to fully reconcile/define their own online/social identity. Americans Elect seeks to be a platform for a third party candidate in a political system without a third party. Despite its attempts to remain politically neutral and take no policy positions, the lack of a third party forces Americans Elect to become a (make shift) third party.

Today Mr. Troiano repeatedly said that Americans Elect was not a third party, nor did it intend to be. Perhaps this is the social identity that Americans Elect would like to broadcast; however, this is not an identity outsiders understand. Americans Elect is often referred to as a "third party group" in the US media and in popular culture. Much to the chagrin of Mr. Troiano, Americans Elect's ideal online identity, that of a mere platform for a third party candidate, has been eclipsed/colluded with a new third party itself.

The rationale for this collusion of social identity and public understanding (or misunderstanding) is simple--Americans Elect is a horse without a jockey. Americans Elect attempts to be a neutral platform for a third party candidate that does not exist; thus, the online identity of both platform and party will understandably collide until the public can distinguish between the two.

Here's why that framework won't work, the party must come before the nominating platform. Historically, both the democratic and republican parties predated the first democratic or republican presidential nominating convention for a reason. There is no rationale for anyone to get excited about a new election/nomination platform without a candidate or set of issues to excite them. Likewise, there's no reason for anyone to pour their own social capital and energy into an incomplete package.

Americans Elect's online identity has failed because there is no one to use the platform in a unique way that differentiates itself from other party nominating platforms--the two serious contenders in this year's Americans Elect primary (Paul and Roemer) were both also running (at some point) in the republican party primary. Like other advances in social media, online platforms become dynamic because their users find a unique outlet/need fulfilled by the space--Americans Elect serves no such purpose.

Without dynamic candidates outside of the existing political parties there is no rationale for users to embrace a new system--especially one that comes with such skepticism within the normative US political environment. Americans Elect needs an independent, active third party to co-opt or it must become one on its own. Without a meaningful third party, America needs a third party nominating platform about as much as my grandmother needs TweetDeck (she doesn't have a twitter account).

Sometimes online identities fail for a reason.

1 comment:

  1. hey Billy,

    this is an amazing piece and quite a convincing analysis of what went on (right/wrong) for Americans Elect! :)

    although Americans Elect didn't seem to incite or garner significant enough interest and support as a platform to successfully produce an independent candidate, i can't help but be impressed by the innovation and willingness of Troiano and his team to even initiate something like that and see it through till the end for whatever its worth.

    i feel social media is still a very new tool/platform that is still only understood and better (not well) used by the "younger" population. therefore it's conceivable and probably only logical that Americans Elect had the results it did.

    due to the very nature of social media, a very open (public) and accessible tool, there are just immeasurable possibilities as a means to various outcomes and even in its methods of use - social media as new technology, as a marketing tool, as a virtual meeting place or forum, as an engine for creativity and shaping cultures and values - what fails today becomes the lessons for phenomenal success tomorrow.

    i just can't wait to see how both social media and Americans Elect would've evolved by the next elections :)