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No Labels in Need of a Label

no-labels

No Labels is attempting to relaunch itself after amounting to exactly nothing in the 2012 cycle. Let me save you the trouble: They won’t matter in 2014 or 2016, either.

YahooNews (“No Labels enters new era by shedding ‘centrist’ image“):

Despite a splashy New York launch, No Labels lacked a clear agenda and grassroots support and was largely dismissed as irrelevant. But with new leadership and a sharper focus, the group,which is redeploying with another New York conference on Monday, has shed some of its early idealism in favor of a more pragmatic acceptance of the partisanship that has divided the country and embroiled Washington in recent years.

“We started off thinking there was a broad group in the middle, but quickly realized that wasn’t productive. People have very different notions of what the middle is,” said Mark McKinnon, a longtime adviser to former President George W. Bush and a No Labels founder. “So we grew beyond that, and now have strong conservative and strong liberal partisans who want to participate.”

That perspective is shared by the group’s new co-chairs — West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and former Republican Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who gave their first joint interview to Yahoo News since taking their new roles.

“It’s not about centrism, it’s about a new attitude toward the realities we face. It’s about finding Democrats and Republicans who will check their egos at the door,” said Huntsman, whose decidedly centrist run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination flamed out early in the primary process.

Huntsman and Manchin will be among the marquee speakers at “A Meeting to Make America Work!” the group’s conference in New York on Monday. Others include newly elected Maine Independent Sen. Angus King; Newark, New Jersey Mayor and Democratic Senate candidate Cory Booker; and Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller, who will address the group by video. Former President Bill Clinton and Arizona Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, will send taped messages.

Huntsman and Manchin told Yahoo News they envision a more aggressive agenda for No Labels, like improving the group’s small donor fundraising, using digital tools to broaden its grassroots operations and recruiting more lawmakers to team up with with the organization and embrace its goals.

To that end, No Labels has helped launch a congressional “Problem Solvers’ Group” — 12 Republican lawmakers, 13 Democrats — who have begun holding meetings and working on some reform measures. Several members of the group are attending the New York conference.

McKinnon’s a smart guy but this has about as much chance of catching on as the odd neckwear he sports on his frequent “Morning Joe” appearances. What No Labels desperately needs is, well, a label.

It’s true that “centrist” is a meaningless term and that simply marketing a group as “centrist” is therefore not useful. They’re moving in the right direction by putting together an actual policy agenda. But who the hell cares with 25 random yahoos come up with in their Problem Solvers’ Group? There are hundreds of high profile policy wonks out there putting out their ideas. In order to get anything done in our system, though, they need to do more: Organize.

No Labels isn’t a political party. So, it’s not running candidates for office. Which means, it will get zero votes on any piece of legislation or other policy issue that arises.

Nor is No Labels a traditional lobbying group. It’s not at all clear where its leverage to shape public policy will come from, then. The sheer charisma of Jon Huntsman? Hell, half the participants can’t even be bothered to attend the launch event and will instead send videos.

Now, I like Huntsman. I like Booker. But they don’t have much in common in terms of a political agenda. Add in Bill Clinton, John McCain, and a lot of people I’ve barely hard of, and it’s just a head scratcher as to what the group stands for.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Li'l Abner says:

    People have very different notions of what the middle is,” said Mark McKinnon,..

    They need to be everything for everybody.
    They ought to call themselves the Shmoo Party!

    http://www.lil-abner.com/shmoo.html

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. rudderpedals says:

    A name….and a mission. Trouble is, “Third Way” is already taken. How about “Problem Solving Group”?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. Ron Beasley says:

    As Jim Hightower says the only thing you find in the middle of the road is dead armadillos.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  4. Franklin says:

    Well it sounds like there goal is to break out of the highly partisan bind we are in. I don’t see their solutions, however. With the Internet and cable “news” channels, people can hear only what they want to hear which just leads to more partisanship.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. Rafer Janders says:

    “We started off thinking there was a broad group in the middle, but quickly realized that wasn’t productive. People have very different notions of what the middle is,”

    I hate so say well, duh, but….well, duh.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  6. Rafer Janders says:

    Huntsman and Manchin told Yahoo News they envision a more aggressive agenda for No Labels, like improving the group’s small donor fundraising, using digital tools to broaden its grassroots operations and recruiting more lawmakers to team up with with the organization and embrace its goals.

    None of these things — fundraising, becoming more efficient, recruiting, etc. — are actually an agenda. These are all tactics in search of an agenda.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  7. al-Ameda says:

    “So we grew beyond that, and now have strong conservative and strong liberal partisans who want to participate.”

    Newbreak! Nothing happening.
    More news later … a LOT later, in fact, maybe never ….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  8. al-Ameda says:

    @al-Ameda:
    damn … that would be “Newsbreak”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  9. Rafer Janders says:

    As Atrios always notes, there seems to be a common delusion that if both sides could come together, we could figure out a way out of our problems. However, in the real world, people disagree — and that’s fine! Both sides have genuine, underlying disagreements about what the solutions should be, and the answer does not always come from splitting things down the middle.

    Say my house is infested with rats. I want to kill all the rats but my wife, a devout Buddhist, can’t abide killing. The middle ground of killing only half the rats isn’t really going to work out for either of us. It’s a meaningless compromise which doesn’t actually accomplish anything.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  10. gVOR08 says:

    @Ron Beasley: I believe the full quote was “…yellow stripes and dead armadillos.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  11. gVOR08 says:

    Over the last thirty plus years the Republican Party has moved far to the right, and the Democrats have occupied the abandoned middle. Now we’re supposed to compromise by moving to some new middle? If Joe Manchin is their “liberal” co-chair, that probably is the plan.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  12. Andre Kenji says:

    There is a role for something like a “No Labels” organization: funding and helping candidates in states and districts where their party is in the minority. A Democrat in the South or a Republican in the Northeast does not have the funding to compete against National Organizations like Club for Growth or FreedomWorks, that´s the problem that plagued most of the Blue Dogs. Besides that, they can help mainstream Republicans that are being targeted by Tea Parties organizations: it was out of state money that allowed Christine O´Donnell to defeat the second most popular politician in her state.

    A Super PAC could be really powerful.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. Ron Beasley says:

    @gVOR08: Thanks, I knew there was something about yellow lines in there but was too lazy to look it up. The problem is the right and the left combined make up over 50% and those in the center are less likely to vote especially in the primaries. The Republican party agenda is now set by Rupert Murdoch and FOX news and since that’s where the base gets it’s “information” the politicians don’t dare ignore it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  14. Rafer Janders says:

    @gVOR08:

    Over the last thirty plus years the Republican Party has moved far to the right, and the Democrats have occupied the abandoned middle. Now we’re supposed to compromise by moving to some new middle?

    Yes, a new middle which will be far to the right of where Democrats have historically been, while being right at the spot where Republicans have historically been. See? Compromise!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Ron Beasley: And possums, don’t forget the possums.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  16. Gromitt Gunn says:

    They will have the same problem that all third parties in the US have – an unwillingness to start at the bottom.

    Today’s Senators were often Governors or members of the House before they were in the Senate. Governors and members of the House were frequently Mayors or State Legislators or Attorneys General first. And before that they frequently served on city councils or school boards or water commissions or as prosecutors.

    If the Liberatarian Party (for example) wants to build itself up nationally it needs to look at the local level now to see where it could be nationally in 15 years, by getting its people elected or appointed or volunteering to serve on local commissions.

    You don’t get yourself a sustained presence in Washington without developing a farm league first.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  17. de stijl says:

    The biggest unreported story of the last 15 years is “Republicans Have Apparently Gone Crazy, Democrats Now Center-Right Party”

    There are folks whose identity is tied up with this No-Labels type stuff, so they cannot acknowledge the fact the Ds have moved way right and the Rs have gone reactionary insane; it’s embarrassing to call oneself bipartisan when that means you are half-insane.

    The same and more so with the so-called MSM media – pretending that Rs aren’t insane and looking for “balance.”

    No one believes that Michelle Bachmann and Jim DeMint and Orly Taitz are not categorically different than Bob Dole and Jack Kemp and Anita Bryant, and yet they pretend that this is not true.

    You know what, when the emperor is not wearing any clothes, it’s okay to report that fact. If you are afraid to report that fact, you’re useless. Actually, you’re worse than useless – you’re gumming up the gears. Tell the goddamned truth for Christ sakes.

    Remember when everyone saw that players like McGuire, Bonds, Sosa, etc. appearance and performance had changed from a just a few years ago, but no one actually could say the truth out loud? Eff me, Barry Bonds’ melon was a big as my pelvis, and people said squat. In politics, we are in the equivalent of the steroids era. The “Bash Brothers” and the Bush brothers.

    Some say today’s “journalists” suck.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  18. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Shorter version: “We hate the Tea Party, so we’re going to try to imitate them.” And we get another Epic Fail.

    No Labels, Occupy, the Coffee Party… I’m sure there were others, but they were so unremarkable that I can’t recall them. Anyone want to bring up any other losers?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 9

  19. Sing Along With Mitch says:

    Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EaN7xuAIjXI

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  20. noel says:

    “No budget no pay” is legit. Had ~ 90ish supporters. Are they keeping their whole 12 issue platform though?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. An Interested Party says:

    Anyone want to bring up any other losers?

    Yes indeed…Teabaggers themselves…I mean, it is easy to get a certain percentage of gerrymandered seats in the House, but their record in the Senate hasn’t exactly been sterling, as their candidates in two straight elections have cost the GOP control of the Senate…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  22. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: With regard to the Libertarian Party, I see it (particularly as I read more of Doug’s stuff) as a niche group. When they are at full capacity and organizational skills, the Libertarians will control about…maybe…10% or so of the electorate.

    They don’t have a farm team, but they don’t have much capacity to fill a stadium either.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. de stijl says:

    @An Interested Party:

    The upside to dealing with dickish people is that they cannot hide their inherent dickishness forever. It never sleeps and sooner or later that dickishness will emerge when and where it will be noticed. Usually not in front of “journalists” and if so they will treat it as “off the record” – so-and-so was having a tense day, but in front of money people and contacts people. Folks like that used to get relegated to the back bench.

    But now, dickishness can be monetized. Gingrich is the echo OG (or OD if you prefer), but he learned at the figurative knee of Atwater.

    Shouting “You lie!” at the SOTU is now a money-making scheme for the individual Representative and politically expedient for the party yapparatus. It can be simultaneously be decried by the Establishment front while being exploited by the Rush / Drudge crowd. Win / win plus the shouty guy can make major campaign bank and his R bona fides (pronoun choice was intended – it’s always a guy) . It’s Joe Arpaio’s bread and butter and more butter plus some extra bread.

    Until we see the modern-day version of Joseph Nye Welch and his / her retort resonates, and lasts more than a week in the mediasphere in a big, conversation changing way, dickishness will still be ascendant.

    I am not optimistic that we will enter the Post-Dick phase of American politics soon. It’s gonna take a major line over-step – a big ass line-step by someone not normally pegged as an habitual line-stepper. I have my eye on Peggy Noonan. Probably a gun thing.

    Actually, no. It probably has to be a sex thing. Hell, Reagan sold weapons to Iran two years after they took our folks hostage, and now he is known as Ronaldus friggin’ Magnus instead of as the biggest traitor to ever hold the office.

    Whatever it is, it will take a lot. It’s hard to shame shameless people.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  24. superdestroyer says:

    @gVOR08:it is hard to argue that the Republicans have really moved to the right after the eight years of the Bush Administration. Growing the federal government, massive deficits, expanding regulations, creating new entitlements,and a ton of quota appointments. If the Republicans are moving to the right, I would have to see what constitutes the far left these days.

    The real question for politics is not about the irrelevant Republicans but about how far to the left politics will go as conservative politics dies in the U.S.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6

  25. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @superdestroyer: Here we go again.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  26. Franklin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: The Tea Party invented 3rd parties/movements? That bit of history I did not know!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  27. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Franklin: If “jumping to conclusions” was an Olympic sport, you’d get the gold.

    I cited groups that came about in reaction to the Tea Party. And note that the Tea Party Caucus in Congress has 49 members in the House and 4 in the Senate. By comparison, the Congressional Black Caucus has 42 members in the House and zero Senators.

    …and how many members of Congress are in the Occupy Wall Street Caucus?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  28. Rob in CT says:

    The Dems moved Right on economic/tax policy. And, at least until recently (and I think still) on gun control as well. But that’s now up in the air… we’ll see.

    They’ve moved Left, along with the electorate on gay rights.

    They’ve stayed about the same on abortion, as has the public.

    On balance, that’s rightward drift.

    The GOP has moved rightward on “social” issues, and stuck with the same magic pixie dust it was peddling in 1980 on economic/tax policy. That’s rightward drift. There are some signs of a possible concession on gay rights, but it’s too soon to tell.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  29. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: I agree. I was using them as an example. Any new political movement would be better off starting localing and growing upward.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  30. Rafer Janders says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:

    This is how I’m building my Cocktail Party.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. mattb says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    And note that the Tea Party Caucus in Congress has 49 members in the House and 4 in the Senate. By comparison, the Congressional Black Caucus has 42 members in the House and zero Senators.

    Given that, up until the arrival of Tim Scott, there was only one African American senator, color me slightly surprised there might be no senators in the current CBC.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @mattb: Given that, up until the arrival of Tim Scott, there was only one African American senator, color me slightly surprised there might be no senators in the current CBC.

    That’s not necessarily a serious obstacle…

    Oh, my bad, it is. The CBC is explicitly race-based. As Representative Cohen learned, representing a lot of blacks and trying to focus on issues and concerns of blacks isn’t enough. You have to be the right race. No Honkeys Need Apply.

    And you’re right. I hadn’t noticed, but out of all the Democrats in the Senate, not a single one was black. It’s a whites-only group. And when Scott arrives, it still will be — the only black Senator will be a Republican.

    Those damned racist Democrats…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 6

  33. mattb says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I hadn’t noticed, but out of all the Democrats in the Senate, not a single one was black. It’s a whites-only group. And when Scott arrives, it still will be — the only black Senator will be a Republican.

    Those damned racist Democrats…

    God, I realize you’re trolling, but man the stupid is painful. If you actually look at *recent history*, there have been 3 elected African American Senators and 2 appointed.

    Elected:
    - Edward William Brooke, III (1967-1979, Republican, MA)
    - Carol Moseley Braun (1993-1999, Democrat, IL)
    - Barack Obama (2004-2008, Democrat, IL)

    Appointed:
    - Roland W. Burris (2009-2010, Democrat, IL)
    - Tim Scott (2013- , Republican, SC)

    So first of all, neither party has a particularly good record in this category. But to claim that the Republicans have some sort of moral superiority when the last *elected* Republican African American Senator left office prior to Regan is… well, your typical sort of twisted logic.

    As far as the CBC being explicitly race based… you’re right. Of course the Republican party has their own implicitly race-based caucus Congressional Hispanic Conference (though they allow people of non-hispanic descent to be “associate” members).

    And as long as we’re discussing race, looking at all the current members of the Tea Party caucus, there is a pretty noticeable lack of melanin in the current bunch. But that’s probably because the only African American Republican congressman lost reelection.

    And when one looks at the modern era of congressional elections, it’s hard to guess when the next Black republican might get elected (considering that there have only been 6 in congress since 1923).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. mattb says:

    Just to be accurate, when I wrote “congress” in that last sentence, I meant the house.

    Oh well, hijack over. @Jenos feel free to get the last word in.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. An Interested Party says:

    Beyond elected politicians, we can see how the two parties fare with minorities by looking at who they vote for…maybe some bright spark conservative around here can explain why blacks and other minorities overwhelmingly vote for Democrats over Republicans…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0