Sam (lullabypit) wrote in coldreason,

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Notes from May 30 Unity08 conference call

I’m not sure who all was on the line, but the major U08 players included:
  • Doug Bailey, Arlington, VA, former political consultant, co-founder The Hotline.
  • Jim Jonas, Denver, CO. Public affairs consultant and Founder/Partner of Peak Creative Media, CEO of Unity08.
  • Hamilton Jordan, Atlanta, GA. Carter White House Chief of Staff, writer, investor; focused on for-profit and non-profit start-ups.
  • Angus King, Brunswick, ME. Former two-term independent Governor of Maine, teacher, businessman, attorney.
  • James Strock, Scottsdale, AZ. Former California Secretary for Environmental Protection, Author of Theodore Roosevelt on Leadership and Reagan on Leadership.
1. Unity08 has a two-tiered criterion for declaring victory. They obviously know they’re up against a huge challenge in trying to win the White House. Bailey noted (I think it was Bailey - the audio wasn’t great at this point) that they recognize the need to get their nominated ticket on all 50 state ballots, and they also recognize that the two major parties have constructed laws in all states that make it extremely difficult for third parties to get in the game. (He didn’t use the word “rigged,” but I will.)

So there’s no shiny happy podium-thumping about the project. They’re going to have to work hard to even get on the ballot, money is an issue, and at present, Bailey said they don’t even think they’re a political party. They have registered as a 527, but have asked the Federal Election Commission for some guidance on what kind of organization they really are.

They say their biggest concern is the direction of the country. Gov. King indicated that their primary goal is to draw attention back to the mainstream voter, who is pretty much unrepresented at the moment. “The process is not working, and we want to open up that process and move it back toward the center.”

2. However, U08 seems to believe that it can win under the right circumstances. King joked that the secret to winning is in carefully selecting your opponent, and Jordan says the group believes that neither major party is likely to nominate a candidate that will inspire enthusiasm among mainstream voters.

Jordan: “We wouldn’t be in it if we thought the parties would nominate centrists, but we don’t think that will happen. Instead, they’re going to promote issues that divide country. We really want to make a difference.”

U08 offered a couple actual third-party cases from history – Ross Perot and Teddy Roosevelt – and Jordan also suggested that the 2000 election posed a potential winning third-party scenario that was never realized. “If you could have put Colin Powell on the ballot in autumn of that year – and that was before he aligned with Bush and supported the war – I think a plurality would have voted for him. There was no enthusiasm for either candidate. We saw the same lack of enthusiasm again in 2004.

“We do think we can win with a bipartisan ticket if we can speak to the great issues being ignored.”

King said “we’re absolutely serious. Our chances of winning depend on which direction the parties go in, and they ignore us at their peril.”

3. U08 feels that past third-party efforts have posted significant results. Jordan noted that in 1992 Perot actually looked like he had a chance after the debates, with some pollsters having him in the lead. His on-again/off-again candidacy (remember his paranoia over the idea that his daughter was being followed?) hurt him, but he still pulled 20 million votes.

Strock offered Theodore Roosevelt as an illustration of how a ticket might win even in defeat. “It’s all about best way to serve the public. In 1912, Roosevelt ran as a Bull Moose against Wilson and Taft. He lost the election, but both parties shifted in his direction, and Wilson wound up enacting most of the policies that Roosevelt proposed.”

4. U08 feels that technology is a major key to the 2008 election. As Jordan observes, “Perot didn’t have the Internet. The Net gives us a chance at pulling it off.”

While many (Lullaby Pit included) have blamed the Net for helping polarize the electorate, Bailey thinks the real culprit has been television. “Gerald Rafshoon and I started a book on TV politics a couple years ago. We thought we were retiring from politics, so now would be a good time to write a book. That’s when we realized that those of us in politics for the last 20 years had allowed TV to run right over us.” He said that only once in his entire career did he ever hear a reporter ask how television might be used to improve democracy.

“This new set of technologies will change things again, and dramatically,” he said. “So the question is, how can we use new technologies to change democracy. One way is to enable people en masse to pick the candidates for president.

“We’re going to hold an online convention where those in middle, not just voters in New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina, will be able to decided who the candidates will be.”

5. U08's notion that they might actually be able to beat certain combos of Dem and GOP candidates is more than a little intriguing. Say, hypothetically, both parties go toward the fringe or nominate polarizing candidates – let’s imagine Hillary vs. Frist (or Jeb, or anybody else from the evangelical/ideological wing). And let’s theorize that McCain comes to his damned senses before he crawls any further under the covers with Jerry Falwell.

Now recall, McCain had better numbers among Dems and Independents than he did with Republicans. So he smells the coffee and gives U08 a call. Winds up paired with somebody like John Edwards (who’s a lawyer, to be sure, but a charming one). Or maybe you get somebody like Mark Warner on the ticket with a Rudy Giuliani. (I like this one even better. There are things I admire and respect about McCain, but when I actually think about his positions on issues, his willingness to whore himself to things he can’t possibly believe, and his gutlessness in rolling over for the people who raped his character in a previous election... let’s just say I think I like the romantic idea of McCain a lot better than I would the cold reality).

If this happens, and U08 gets its t’s crossed and i’s dotted, mid- to late-2008 might give us some of the most interesting political theater we’ve seen in awhile.

6. The idea about Perot and the Internet is especially interesting. Given the cowboy character of significant parts of the blogosphere, you have to wonder what kind of hay Perot could have made if he’d access to something like Howard Dean’s Net operation from 2004.

It’s probably clear that I’m on board with the Unity08 concept, and time will tell how the reality plays out. Meanwhile, Jordan himself made the salient point of the day: “It’s easy for people to get in – just sign up. You can leave if you don’t like what we’re doing. And you can leave and go back to the Democrats or Republicans if they nominate a candidate you like. We’re building a platform for discussion, for debate, and ultimately to select a person who will address our problems. This is THE question we have to address to be viable in next 12-18 months.”

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