Unity08: Will it revolutionize the 2008 presidential election?

June 13, 2006 — Unity08 is a new political organization that positions itself as an alternative to partisan politics. Rather than promoting a third-party or independent ticket for the presidency, it aims to harness the immediacy and power of the Internet to allow voters to select a “unity” ticket consisting of one Democrat and one Republican. Unity08 would also break from mainstream political tradition by hosting an online convention in June 2008.

Some of the major players in Unity08 are Washington insiders with strong ties to former presidential campaigns and administrations: Doug Bailey, a former Republican consultant and the founder of the Hotline; Hamilton Jordan and Jerry Rafshoon, veterans of the Carter administration; Nicco Mele, who served in Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign; and Roger Craver, a Democratic consultant who assisted John B. Anderson’s independent presidential bid in 1980.

According to the Unity08 Web site, the group believes:

  • Today’s major parties are unduly influenced by single-issue groups and excessively dominated by money. As a result, they have polarized and alienated the people.
  • Recent presidential elections have not been focused on the middle but on the turnout of each party’s special interest groups – with each party’s “base” representing barely 10 percent of the American people.
  • The leaders of both major parties are well-intentioned people, they are trapped in a flawed system – and that the two major parties are today simply neither relevant to the issues and challenges of the 21st century nor effective in addressing them.

UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA sources to assist in your reporting on presidential campaigns and electoral politics:
Larry J. Sabato

Sabato is the founder and director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics as well as the Robert Kent Gooch Professor of Politics. Recognized as one of the nation’s top political analysts, he is a keen observer of politics on the national, regional and state levels. Sabato has written more than 20 books and numerous essays on the American political process. His most recent book – “Divided States of America: The Slash and Burn Politics of the 2004 Presidential Election” – examines the election and sets the stage for what the nation might expect to see in the 2006 mid-term elections and the 2008 presidential election.

Sabato said of Unity08: “The goal of Unity08 is to end polarization. With the online convention, some voters will participate, but this idea will have a hard time taking off. It is going to seem like an academic exercise to many—-unless the two parties both commit electoral suicide in ’08 by nominating unelectable candidates.”

Phone: 434-243-8468
Email: sabato@virginia.edu
Sidney Milkis

Milkis is a professor of politics and co-director of the American Political Development Program at U.Va.'s Miller Center of Public Affairs. His books include “The President and the Parties: The Transformation of the American Party System Since the New Deal” (1993); “Political Parties andConstitutional Government: Remaking American Democracy” (1999); and “The American Presidency: Origins and Development, 1776-2002” (2003), 4th edition, coauthored with Michael Nelson.In addition to teaching graduate and undergraduate students, Milkis regularly gives public lectures on American politics and participates in programs that teach political history to school superintendents and high school teachers. During the 2005-2006 academic year, he served as the president of the American Political Science Association’s Politics and History Section.

Phone: (434) 975-3139
Email: smm8e@virginial.edu
James W. Ceaser

Ceaser is professor of politics at the University of Virginia, where he has taught since 1976. He has written several books on American politics and political thought, including “Presidential Selection,” “Reforming the Reforms,” “Liberal Democracy and Political Science” and “Reconstructing America.” Professor Ceaser has held visiting professorships at the University of Florence, the University of Basel, Oxford University, the University of Bordeaux, and the University of Rennes. He is a frequent contributor to the popular press and often comments on American politics for the Voice of America. (Fluent in French.)

Phone: (434) 296-0787
Email: ceaser@virginia.edu orjwc2g@virginia.edu
Paul Freedman

Freedman is associate professor of politics at the University of Virginia. His area of specialization is American politics, specifically, public opinion, research methods and the influence of the media on politics. His current research focuses on campaign advertising, issue framing and the politics of abortion. His work has appeared in Public Opinion Quarterly, the American Journal of Political

Science, the Journal of Politics, Political Communication, Campaigns and Elections and Slate. Freedman has recently completed a book about television campaign advertising and American democracy. He served as research director for the Project on Campaign Conduct at the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership. Since 2000, he has been an election analyst for ABC News in New York.

Phone: (434) 979-5523
Email: freedman@virginia.edu