The episode is just the latest proof that, while many Americans say they want a third party or independent candidate, the institutional and motivational barriers are often too much to overcome.
The failure of the effort is notable because of its place in history. This is, after all, a time of historic unhappiness with Congress, and if there was ever an opening for such an effort, 2012 might have been the year to get it done.
While there had been no serious — and by “serious,” we mean someone who could actually win — third-party candidate since Texas billionaire Ross Perot ran in 1992 and 1996, Americans Elect was widely regarded as the last, best chance for those who believed there was a silent majority pining for another option.
[T]he failure of Americans Elect to field a candidate in 2012 is yet more evidence that there is a cavernous gap between the idea of running a third party candidate for president and the reality of doing so — a gap no one has figured out how to bridge just yet.
While I certainly would never dismiss the very real hurdles facing third-party candidates, the real reason that “centrist” third-party groups like Americans Elect, Third Way, and Unity08 fail to generate enthusiasm is that their fundamental premise is false. Democrats and Republicans aren’t on opposite extremes of the political spectrum; at best they’re on opposite ends of the same side.
In other words, when Americans are sick of the Corporate Party and the Insanely Corporate Party, offering them a Very Corporate Party in the mold of Joe Lieberman, Evan Bayh and Ben Nelson is not very enticing to anyone who isn’t a High Broderist media hack.
If a third party is ever going to catch fire, it will have to be everything the established parties are not: Straight-talking, courageous, charismatic, people-powered, and not beholden to big-money donors in any way.