There’s an ever-more-obvious instability at the heart of the Americans Elect experiment in an induced “centrist” presidential ticket. The group does not have a remotely viable candidate who meets its basic criteria (unless Thomas Friedman’s shout-out to Michael Bloomberg, one of many that have issued from one end of Manhattan to the other, somehow strikes a chord). It’s doesn’t have a whole lot of current public interest in its web-driven persona. At present, the top online vote-getter among candidates pursuing the AE nomination, Buddy Roemer, has a booming 3575 “supporters.” For reasons both of supply and demand, AE has postponed its scheduled first round of “voting” for a candidate by a month.

But AE does have a bankable asset: ballot access in 25 states, with more likely to be secured in the immediate future, since that’s mainly what the group’s initial “investment” from undiclosed donors has gone towards, aside from its web site.

You have to wonder: at what point do AE’s backers admit they’ve created a rich opportunity for its ballot lines to be hijacked by someone with less than pure motives for pursuing them, or who cares not a fig for AE’s “centrist” principles or its lofty commitment to ground-up democratic empowerment? Yes, they have safeguards to avoid the wrong kind of nominee, but if exercised, they will only make a mockery of the whole enterprise, and represent a vast bait-and-switch whereby a shadowy group of elites chooses someone who could have a perverse effect on the outcome of a close presidential election.

I hope one of their “safeguards” involves the option of calling the whole thing off.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.