Can a new group working in Georgia and other states forge a new path to the White House next year over the Internet?
It depends on how fast the politics is changing — and into what.
It also depends on how we define an election campaign and even a campaign headquarters.
Let’s start with the latter two first.
Americans Elect seeks to bypass political parties and what it says is their pandering to extremes by holding an online 2012 convention to nominate a presidential candidate.
Delegates — any registered voter who signs up online — will choose the issues and would-be candidates will respond.
Then delegates will choose the nominee directly: After that, it’s up to the candidate to wage — and finance — the rest of the campaign.
No face-to-face contact is envisioned. No wrangling over platform planks. No superheated rhetoric. No smoke-filled rooms.
All the interaction will be on the web.
This makes sense in almost inverse proportion to your age.
Political experts, many of whom haven’t heard of Americans Elect and are skeptical about its prospects, tend to be older.
To them, a campaign headquarters is a big room filled with makeshift cubicles and scratched metal desks littered with uneven piles of paper. One with walls bearing color-coded maps, pins and swatches drawn with marking pens.
The movement’s activists are younger, mostly college students or recent graduates.
They grew up wired, chatting online and blogging. Tweeting, linking, friending, and riding the YouTube are second-nature to them.
Many of the same people now behind the new group tried something similar a while back. It flopped.
But Americans Elect is betting that — five years later — its time has arrived — or is at least near at hand.
In the meantime, it’s learned something: Despite the power of the cyber sphere, success as alternative to the parties requires that you take your hands off the keyboard and put your feet on the pavement.
Using a small army of paid staff and volunteers, it says, it’s gathered 2 million-plus signatures. And it’s qualified its eventual nominee for the ballot in 11 states.
It also claims to be riding the wave of history.
In recent years, it argues, the Internet and social media such as Facebook and Twitter have changed the political landscape.
Some say such networks render go-between institutions such as political parties obsolete.
The political successes of tea party groups and the attention attracted by the Occupy Wall Street movement, they add, signal widespread rejection of politics as usual.
But, as we used to ask our parents from the back seat, are we there yet?
Most people aren’t much interested in politics, on or offline. A web-based appeal likely won’t pull them into the Americans Elect orbit.
Still, these folks might mobilize just enough voters to be dangerous. Strategists for President Barack Obama are watching warily. Their concern: The group might siphon off just enough votes to play a spoiler role like the one Ross Perot’s third party bid played in 1992.
But will Americans Elect elect a president?
Maybe by 2016, says Kennesaw State University political science professor Kerwin Swint. Maybe in 30 years, says Robert Eisinger, a Savannah College of Art and Design political scientist.
Why not more or less split the difference. How about 2028?
By then, we may also have conquered world hunger.
Air sandwich, anyone?
Senior reporter Larry Peterson covers politics for the Savannah Morning News. He can be reached at 912-652-0367 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.