The X-factor in 2012

Progress 9/11/11

One of the UK’s most successful exports to the US has been Simon Cowell. The X-factor, Pop Idol and America’s got Talent has replicated its success from the UK into America both in terms of dominating the entertainment culture and in getting segments of the population to vote in greater numbers than they do in their own general elections.

The 2012 election is going to be a ‘change’ election for many reasons. The traditional barometers of tracking how the American public is feeling are off the charts. Over 80 per cent of Americans distrust the government and the confidence in the US consumer price index is at around 55 per cent. In the past, to win elections the confidence figure needed to be at 95 per cent; to lose, the confidence measure was at around 75 per cent. For over 40 months people in the USA feel like their country has been going in the wrong direction.

Clearly the American people want something different and, given that the US president is the only directly elected office in the land, albeit with the electoral college, a new movement has started to try and capitalise on the concept that the people deserve more than a binary choice. Americans Elect is a non-partisan movement that aims to make it possible for the voters in America to choose a president rather than a party.

The main barrier to getting elected president if you are outside the two-party structure in US politics is ballot access. What Americans Elect has already done is remove this obstacle. They have bought spaces on each ballot, state by state, for a third candidate that will be nominated by its membership. Anyone who is a registered voter in the USA can be a member of the movement and through an online convention the ‘delegates’ will nominate their candidate.

When most people hear about this process they dismiss it as fantasy. The fact is that Americans Elect has already spent over $22 million dollars, collected 1.9 million members and already gained ballot access in 22 states. This is going to happen. There will be a third choice between President Obama and the eventual GOP nominee for president in 2012.

In every other cycle where there has been a third candidate they have helped determine the outcome of the election. Ross Perot in 1992 helped take votes away from President Bush and in 2000 Ralph Nader in Florida was all that stood between Bush and Gore. In such a tight election, a third candidate in all 50 states will be the real X-factor in this election.

Americans Elect open their nominating process in December and their eventual nominee will either be the bane of President Obama or the GOP candidate’s existence. Of course, there is the possibility that this third candidate could even win. With the volatility in the electorate and the need to only secure a majority of the vote in a state in order to carry its votes, it is possible that we could have an independent president of the USA in 2012. Whether victorious or not, Americans Elect look to change the face of the presidential elections for the near future.



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