Founded by Tim Cook in 2007, Get Out Of Our House is not designed as a political party. Instead, "It is a system that will allow you and your neighbors to choose, among yourselves, a candidate who will truly represent your district." The group's first priority is to defeat the incumbent Representative in every district in the country. Accordingly, "Our preference is to compete in the primaries against the incumbent." Running on an independent line is seen as a last resort, but if the GOOOH candidate opts to contest a primary, he or she is obliged to stand down if the incumbent wins. The group appears to believe in a single-elimination principle, citing Sen. Murkowski of Alaska as a negative example (despite her eventual victory) of a party candidate continuing to run despite a repudiation from primary voters. Dedicated to eliminating all 435 current Representatives, GOOOH declares itself non-partisan and non-ideological. As a non-party, it has no platform. It presents itself as a "process," a mechanism through which "a socially moderate candidate [can] be selected in San Francisco and a socially conservative one in Colorado Springs."
Interestingly, GOOOH originally considered excluding lawyers and people making more than 250 times the median national income from membership, on the ground that these groups were already over-represented in the existing political system. They thought better of that rather Capra-esque idea, but still insist that members of either group declare their profession or their wealth before they can participate in one of GOOOH's "Selection Societies." Active politicians and their relatives are still excluded, however.
Everyone who participates in a "Selection Session" is a potential candidate for office as long as he or she meets the requirements for serving in Congress. Participants must fill out a campaign questionnaire, marking Yes or No positions on a wide range of issues -- GOOOH claims there are no "right" or "wrong" answers at this stage. They must promise in writing not to accept money from "special interests" and to vote in Congress according to the positions set down in the questionnaire. Another condition is added elsewhere: each candidate must promise in writing to serve no more than one term in office. Perhaps most importantly, participants must donate at least $100 to a general GOOOH campaign fund. The group acknowledges criticism of this requirement, which is believed by some to exclude "the poor." The core of GOOOH's response follows:
Candidates are competing for a job that will pay $168,000 per year. If someone does not have the ability to raise $100 from family, friends or a side job, it is unlikely they are qualified to represent their district as a US Congressman. If someone is not willing to support the system with a minimum $100 donation, we do not consider them committed to the process.
The actual candidate selection process is a staggered caucus system that does seem to give each member a plausible fighting chance at first. Members in each district are assigned randomly to pools of ten people apiece, from which two candidates will be sent to the next round of selection. The process repeats until the number of potential candidates is down to ten. Those ten are then empowered exclusively to choose one from their number to run against the incumbent in a primary or general election. It is a very indirect system of selection that may strike people as undemocratic at the final stage, but the indirectness arguably denies any single person an advantage due to notoriety, and advertising is conspicuously absent from the process. If the plan has an obvious Achilles heel, it is the lack of any guarantee that all participants in the selection process will support the final candidate. Some may prove unwilling to register in the incumbent's party if the election law requires it. For others, ideological bias may trump anti-incumbent sentiment if the final candidate appears "worse" in any respect than the incumbent.
GOOOH expresses confidence that its candidates can win primaries and general elections. "We believe Americans will vote overwhelmingly for our citizen representatives if given an honest chance," the website declares, "GOOOH candidates will win in a landslide." The group hopes to seal the deal with a stern anti-incumbent argument against voters who declare themselves satisfied with their current representatives.
There are 700,000 members in each district, thousands of imminently qualified men and women. George Washington stepped aside after two terms as President because he did not want any one person to become more important than the system. Will your representative do the same, or is he more concerned about his political career? If your representative is good, shouldn’t he run for Senate or Governor? Do you agree that sometimes it is worthwhile to take one step back in order to move 435 forward? But, does it really matter if you “like” your representative. We voted for our high school officers based on likes and dislikes. This is about results. What has your politician done to ensure there are no earmarks in a budget? What has he done to ensure we do not amass debt that our children will be forced to pay? What has he done to seal our borders, improve our education system, or solve the looming Social Security / Medicare crisis?
The author (presumably but not necessarily Tim Cox) goes on to make comments that suggest an anti-Democratic bias, but Cox does appear to have designed a system that it itself ideologically unbiased and would produce biased results only if ideologues join in numbers overwhelming to everyone else. However, GOOOH desires people to spread the word indiscriminately, to as many people as possible regardless of current partisan or ideological orientation. As long as GOOOH is not a secret club for any particular ideological faction -- and while Cox seems to expect "fiscal conservatives" to be chosen his rules can't guarantee that result -- it might serve as a vehicle for anyone intelligent and charismatic enough to impress at least ten people. I'm not prepared to endorse GOOOH on a first reading, but the ideas it proposes definitely deserve a closer examination.