Adult Politics: Unity 08 a Refreshing Change?

This could be big.

Some years ago, in 1995-1996, a group of maverick centrist reformers,comprised of one independent, two former Republicans, and five Democrats, got together to formulate a platform on which an independent or third-partypresidential candidate could run. There was also some effort to recruit a candidate to run on that platform. This group became known as the Gang of Eight, and the members were former Representative John Anderson, Senator Bill Bradley, former Senator Gary Hart, Maine Governor Angus King, former Governor Richard Lamm, Representative Tim Penny, former Senator Paul Tsongas, and former Governor Lowell Weicker. At first the group wantedBradley to run, but he declined. Then Governor Weicker seriously considered mounting a presidential run, and had actually tentatively secured New York's maverick and very rich political activist Tom Golisano as his running-mate, before pulling out literally days before his official announcement. Finally Governor Lamm decided to take the plunge, though he made the ultimately disastrous decision of running for the nomination of Ross Perot's wholly owned and controlled political subsidiary, the Reform Party, rather than striking out on his own as an independent. The group then quickly disbanded, though their platform (which I've posted here) remains the most definitive and comprehensive articulation I have yet seen of the reform movement spawned in the 90s in the wake of Ross Perot's 1992 and John McCain's 1999-2000 presidential candidacies.

Now it looks like the group could be coming back.

There have been two major developments in recent weeks which lead me to that conclusion.

Firstly, one of the founding members of the Gang of Eight, Governor Angus King, has pulled together a group which has unveiled a web site promoting an effort which they are calling Unity08. Not surprisingly, the web site is located at http://unity08.com/. Their purpose is to collect the funds needed, and the supporters required, to develop a platform, recruit the candidates, and hold an online convention, all for the purpose of ultimately fielding a bipartisan or nonpartisan presidential ticket. If you are interested in seeing or reading more on this effort, I recommend that you first take a look at the interview with two of their founders which aired on the Lehrer Newshour. The two guests are Doug Bailey and Hamilton Jordan. (A brief description of their bios appears at http://www.unity08.com/founderscouncil along with a list of the other founding members.) If you have Windows Media Player (most standard PCs have it) and you have a standard low-speed dialup Internet connection, you may watch the interview here.

If you have Windows Media Player and you have a high-speed or broadband Internet connection, you may watch the interview here.

If you have Real Player and you have a standard low-speed dialup Internet connection, you may watch the interview here.

And if you have Real Player and you have a high-speed or broadband Internet connection, you may watch the interview here.

And if you're also interested in finding out what the print press has been reporting about this group over the past few weeks in the wake of the unveiling of their website yesterday, http://unity08.com/ has a fairly substantial list of such articles, with their links, toward the bottom of the page, under the headline On Our Radar.

But that's not all.

ANOTHER member of the Gang of Eight, former Representative John Anderson, has teamed up with an old friend of the reform movement, former Representative Tom Campbell, to lead an extraordinary effort to change how states apportion their delegates to the Electoral College. As many of you probably know, most in the reform movement support replacing the Electoral College with the popular vote. Well, Anderson and Campbell are spearheading an effort in state legislatures around the country to change Electoral College rules so that states' electors would be awarded to THE NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE WINNER rather than THE STATE'S POPULAR VOTE WINNER.

And just two weeks ago the California Assembly became the first state legislative body to pass this proposal. You can read a report on this extraordinary development here.

It's not too hard to figure out what Anderson, Campbell, and King (and possibly other Gang members who perhaps have not yet emerged) are thinking. Reality is that most large electoral vote states will probably see a plurality win for either a Democrat (e.g. California) or a Republican (e.g. Texas). However a candidate with across-the-board appeal could very well wind up winning the national popular vote even though that candidate might win popular vote victories in very few individual states.

Yes, this could change everything. Stay tuned and spread the word!

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3 Responses to “Adult Politics: Unity 08 a Refreshing Change?”

  1. Mark Grannis Says:

    Thanks for the tip, Charles.

    I went to the Unity08 site and found it very interesting. I posted some enthusiastic comments on term limits (http://www.unity08.com/node/81#comment-3477) and redistricting reform (http://www.unity08.com/node/47#comment-3475), as well as some skeptical comments about public financing of campaigns (http://www.unity08.com/node/44#comment-3476). I’m not affiliated with either major party right now so I’m very happy to see any entry in the discussion that has the prospect of smashing phony dichotomies and making campaigns look less like tug-of-war. It looks to me like redistricting reform and fiscal responsibility are currently the issues on which there is the most consensus for an independent candidacy.

  2. Peter Says:

    I have linked to you on my blog, americanmoderateparty.blogspot.com and am a Unity08 supporter.

    This is fascinating history, but I am a reformer who is OPPOSED to the elimination of the electoral college. I think that the electoral college should remain, but be reformed so that the EVs of each state are apportioned in accordance with the vote in that state.

  3. Mark Grannis Says:

    Thanks for the comment and the link, Peter. I agree with you about the electoral college, and since the individual states control how their electoral votes are apportioned I think there is no reason we shouldn’t have a number of different approaches. The choice among winner-take-all models, proportional models, or models that take account of the nationwide results should depend on policy choices made by the citizens whose votes are to be represented by their state’s approach. The one approach that would concern me would be the suggestion that winner-take-all be implemented on a district-by-district basis. I think that unless we have serious redistricting reform, that would lead to a presidency that is almost as gerrymandered as the Congress is today.


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