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  • Victor C. Bolles

NO LABELS' Fatal Flaw



The No Labels organization has been around since 2010 but few people had heard about it until recently. No Labels was founded by Senator and former vice-presidential candidate Joe Lieberman to stake out a centrist position as the traditional Republican and Democratic parties have each moved further to the extremes.

 

No Labels worked to create the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of Congressmen evenly balanced between Republicans and Democrats that are dedicated to finding bipartisan solutions to national issues. The group met informally beginning in 2013 and was formed officially as a caucus in 2017. The caucus has had some success in negotiating bipartisan compromises on several bills but all the Democratic members supported the ouster of Speaker Kevin McCarthy along with all the other Democrats and a few hard-right Republicans despite the pleas of the Republican members of the caucus. The caucus continues to function but its influence appears to have been diminished as party discipline trumps bipartisanship on anything really important.

 

No Labels has begun the process to get on the ballots for the 2024 presidential elections and has already qualified in 14 states. But many groups (mostly on the left because they think Biden is vulnerable) are trying block attempts by No Labels to get on the ballots of other states prompting the organization to file a complaint with the Justice Department.

 

But as of this writing, No Labels has no candidates. The Washington Examiner reported that No Labels is considering 13 people as potential presidential candidates for a third party bid. Or actually, a fourth party since Robert Kennedy Junior has announced his independent bid for the presidency and has formed his own party for his campaign. And don’t forget that there are also Green Party and Libertarian Party candidates as well.

 

President Biden and former President Trump are assuming that they are the presumptive nominees for their respective parties and have begun their national campaigns, while ignoring any remaining challengers in upcoming primaries. It is now time for No Labels to name a candidate and start campaigning. Biden and Trump already have any potential No Labels candidate beat on name recognition, war chest and they are already on the campaign trail (in between trials, wars and that sort of stuff).

 

Some of the names included in the Washington Examiner article include former GOP New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former GOP Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, and Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH). But nobody’s telling. Joe Manchin has dropped out of the running. In his speech to announce his decision he scolded both parties but did not say why he made the decision not to run. But Manchin, as well as Mitt Romney whose name has also been bandied about, are of the same generation as Biden and Trump. I think he realizes it is time for new leadership.

 

There are some serious flaws in what No Labels is attempting to do. The first is that they are not developing down ballot candidates for the 2024 elections. If their presidential candidate somehow went on to win, a No Labels president would have to confront a legislature composed of two very hostile parties more interested in fighting each other than working on solving problems. The second serious flaw is what the No Labels organization calls its Common Sense Agenda, their equivalent of a campaign platform. And it does make sense. It is a very middle of the road common sense agenda that is built on compromises that will leave voters bored and apathetic. In order to motivate voters to go out there and vote for the No Labels candidate, other than their distaste for Biden and Trump, is something bold. A big issue that makes the hassle of going to the polls worthwhile.

 

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The biggest problem that No Labels has (its fatal flaw) is that they are attempting to implement a common sense agenda within the current two party system. It’s the first item on their common sense agenda. It states, “America can’t solve its biggest problems and deliver the results hardworking taxpayers want, need, and deserve unless Democrats and Republicans start working together side by side on bipartisan solutions.” Given the unpopularity of Biden and Trump, they may have some short-term success. But their long-term success would be dependent on the good behavior Democratic and Republican legislators who have not shown much good behavior in the past - even in the Problem Solvers Caucus.

 

What they need is a plan to dismantle the current two party system that works very well for Republican and Democratic politicians but not very well for the American people. The Founding Fathers feared the idea of political parties, what they called faction. James Madison wrote the Federalist Paper No. 10 entirely about factions. He said, “liberty is to faction, what air is to fire.” Self-interest is part of human nature and it is only natural that people who share interests will band together and form factions. Madison, trying to convince former colonialists to support the creation of a union of states, asserted in Federalist No. 10 that a large nation would benefit from having many diverse and competing interests such that no single faction would have the power to oppress the people. And while one faction might be able control a state, he did not think a single faction could control all the states.

 

He was wrong. Factions formed almost immediately but not a lot of factions, only two. Hamilton’s Federalists and Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party. These political parties have morphed and changed over the years as they struggle against each other for power. But the only thing that they truly did in a bipartisan manner was to make sure that the political system remained bipartisan and did not become multipartisan. As described by Katherine Gehl and Michael Porter in their book, The Politics Industry, the Democrats and the Republicans are a duopoly that, “strengthens and reinforces their way of competing, limits the power of suppliers, channels and customers (voters) and is protected by high barriers to entry.”

 

It is a system designed to resist change. But over the years it has changed. In an attempt to make the process look more democratic, the selection of candidates was taken out of the hands of political hacks in smoke-filled backrooms and given to the hands of voters in political primaries. But because the party platforms and the candidates are determined by who wins the primaries and because primary voters are more partisan than voters in general elections, the parties have been captured by the more extremist members of each party. This has resulted in a large number of citizens saying that their parties have moved away from them – no longer share the same beliefs. The majority of the people in the middle have been disenfranchised by the duopoly of Democrats and Republicans in a system structured by the duopoly to protect the duopoly.

 

No Labels needs to come up with a bold plan to reshape how American politics functions. About 70% of the American public thinks the country is going in the wrong direction. Reshaping how politics works could be the first step in getting our country back on track. Without reform we are doomed to divisive partisan politics, a dysfunctional Congress addicted to deficit spending and mounting public debt.

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