Thursday, January 10, 2008

Unity 08 Closes Shop

Unity08 announced today that its closing the doors on its current incarnation due to a shortage of both members and money.


The past year has taught us that it's tough to rally millions to a process as opposed to a candidate or an issue. In the past, third party movements that have broken through the monopoly of the established parties have always been based on a person (Teddy Roosevelt in 1912 or Ross Perot in the last decade) or a burning issue (slavery in the case of the insurgent Republican party in 1860). Stirring people and moving them to action about a process change - replacing the quirky primary system that tends to drive candidates to the extremes with something more inclusive and sensible - has proven to be a lot harder than we expected.

And the Federal Election Commission hasn't helped. The Commission has taken the position that we are subject to their jurisdiction (even though two United States Supreme Court decisions hold exactly opposite) and, therefore, that we are limited to $5000 contributions from individuals (even though the Democrat and Republican Parties are able to receive $25,000 from individuals). Needless to say, this position by the FEC effectively limited our fundraising potential, especially in the crucial early going when we needed substantial money fast to get on with ballot access and the publicity necessary to build our membership.

We were caught in a peculiar catch-22; we wanted to break the dependence on big money by getting lots of small contributions from millions of members, but needed some up-front big money to help generate the millions of members to make the small contributions. And the FEC (in effect, an arm of the parties) didn't let that happen. We have challenged this ruling in the federal courts, but are still awaiting a decision and time is running out.

When I first heard of Unity08 I thought it was needed, an interesting proposition, and so crazy that it just might work. Which of course meant that it needed my help. And while it may have failed to to achieve its purpose it did manage to create a platform and a purpose that allowed moderates, centrists, and independents to network and organize in a way that hadn't previously been available. Additionally it did help promote certain centrist blogs. So while it may not have caused the center to coalesce, it did at least make it congeal a little. That in and of itself is no mean feat because as any of Unity08's leaders could probably tell you organizing moderates is about as easy as herding cats. So while I'm sorry to see Unity08 go I know that they did have an impact of sorts. So on that note I say to them,"So long and thanks for all the fish."