SAN FRANCISCO--For his novel 1984, George Orwell conjured up a one-party state so powerful and pervasive that it was forced to create a phony resistance movement led by a fiction-within-a-fiction, Emmanuel Goldstein.
A New York Times op-ed column by Thomas Friedman, the hackiest hack in American, presents a Goldstein for America 2012: a third party whose candidate would purportedly be chosen by we, the people.
"Thanks to a quiet political start-up that is now ready to show its hand," writes Friedman, "a viable, centrist, third presidential ticket, elected by an Internet convention, is going to emerge in 2012."
Amend that: rather than being chosen by we the people, this candidate would be picked by a tiny segment of centrists, i.e. the fraction of the electorate whose ideology falls between the Democratic and Republican parties.
"The goal of Americans Elect is to take a presidential nominating process now monopolized by the Republican and Democratic parties, which are beholden to their special interests, and blow it wide open--guaranteeing that a credible third choice, nominated independently, will not only be on the ballot in every state but be able to take part in every presidential debate and challenge both parties from the middle."
Americans Elect offers a tantalizing prospect to a populace starving for representation worthy of them: genuine democracy free of big corporate money. So who is Americans Elect? Its website, americanselect.org, reads like American Select. Americans Elect, Friedman writes, is based in "swank offices, financed with some serious hedge-fund money, a stone's throw from the White House."
Another phony Astroturf movement (hello, Tea Party) financed by hedge-fund scum.
Americans Elect is run by "Elliot Ackerman, an Iraq war veteran with a Silver Star, who serves as the chief operating officer ... and whose father, Peter, a successful investor, has been a prime engine behind the group."
The proposed mechanics are beyond naive. Any nominee, Friedman says, would have to be "considered someone of similar stature to our previous presidents. That means no Lady Gaga allowed." In other words, you can vote for anyone, as long as it's an old white Protestant male. Nice democracy you got there.
Now for the best part. "Each presidential candidate has to pick a running mate outside of their party and reaching across the divide of politics," sayeth Ackerman the Lesser.
Concludes chief cheerleader Friedman: "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."
Hedge-fund money aside, Americans Elect doesn't stand a chance against the billions of corporate dollars lined up behind the Dems and GOP. But that isn't stopping mainstream media like NPR from giving it publicity--and thus false hope to a public in dire need of real solutions, not more charlatans.
Just like Emmanuel Goldstein, Americans Elect accomplishes something remarkable. It offers a third-party alternative so phony and disappointing that it can only make Americans more cynical than they are already.
Which makes me wonder. Are these guys the pompous clods they look like or agents provocateur hastening the revolution?