I do think there is a general desire out there for a third-party candidate. It’s just that the desire isn’t ideological. Lots of Americans think the parties both stink and have little understanding of what the parties actually believe. The idea that there’s a third-party movement rooted in any set of policy goals is silly, and the notion that the there’s a third-party movement rooted in Tom Friedman’s particular policy goals is completely insane.
Americans Elect failed because it stood for almost nothing, and what it did stand for (bipartisanship, mindless “centrism”) are things that the people who vote for third party candidates dislike or don’t value as something desirable in itself.
Why … would Americans fed up with the two party system entrust their loyalties to a nascent movement that promises that this time, this time, a high-minded, bipartisan elite will get things right? Especially since the most successful third party surges, from the William Jennings Bryan-era Populists down to Ross Perot’s 19 percent, usually arise from precisely the opposite impulse – a “plague on both your houses” populism that highlights issues and anxieties that the leaders of the two major parties have decided to ignore.
I actually feel kind of bad for those Americans Elect goobers. It’s not their fault that Americans don’t actually want an independent moderate unity presidential ticket. (It is their fault that they spent $10 zillion pushing the idea.) But there is really no excuse for the bizarre belief that anyone wants Joe Lieberman to be president.