Over at The American Prospect, Harold Meyerson’s essay, titled “No Labels’ Real Label: Vanity Candidates ‘R’ Us,” is worth reading in full.
No Labels was founded by longtime Democratic fundraiser Nancy Jacobson in 2010 on the premise that Americans are sick of the extremists the organization says are in charge of both the Republican and Democratic parties. No Labels’ stated mission was to “advocate and educate for greater bipartisan cooperation throughout all levels of government.” In an alternate dimension, this might seem reasonable. To achieve this objective, however, it pushed legislative bipartisanship from the twisted perspective that Democrats are just as bad as Republicans who, lest it be forgotten, vowed from the outset of Barack Obama’s presidency not to cooperate with him on anything and have continued in that mode ever since.
On the surface, No Labels appears centrist. But the bipartisan “balance” of its supposedly “sensible” policy prescriptions align with big portions of the conservative agenda. To offer just one instance, the organization was one of the scuttlers of the original $3.5 trillion Senate Democrats proposed to fund a clean energy transition and policies to combat climate change. And, while No Labels sought funding from some wealthy liberals, it also rang up the likes of ultra-right-wingers David Koch and Peter Thiel, putting the lie to the supposed concern about extremists.
Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, who infamously endorsed Sen. John McCain in 2008 but wasn’t removed from his committee assignments by the Democratic leadership for it, is a co-chair of No Labels. As Michael Sherer at The Washington Post reported earlier this month, Lieberman is intimately acquainted with the damage a third party or independent candidate can cause:
But that didn’t stop the Connecticut Democrat turned independent from joining a meeting Thursday [March 30] in support of plans by the centrist group No Labels to get presidential ballot lines in all 50 states for 2024. The group calls its effort an “insurance policy” against the major parties nominating two “unacceptable” candidates next year.
Asked if President Biden, his former Senate colleague, would be unacceptable, Lieberman said the answer was uncertain.
“No decision has been made on any of that. But we’re putting ourselves in a position,” Lieberman said. “You know, it might be that we will take our common-sense, moderate, independent platform to him and the Republican candidate and see which one of them is willing to commit to it. And that could lead to, in my opinion, a No Labels endorsement.”
No Labels has raised $70 million—from donors it refuses to identify—and it has succeeded in getting on the ballot in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, and Oregon in furtherance of its “insurance policy.” Jacobson told Scherer that No Labels also could use its ballot lines to field third-party candidates for Senate or House races.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), seeking to reclaim his hold on the nation’s attention now that he’s no longer the swing vote in the Senate, and facing probable defeat should he seek re-election to the Senate next year, is the likeliest recipient of No Labels’ You-Too-Can-Be-the-Presidential-Spoiler Prize. Other possible claimants (though if Manchin runs, they’d almost surely have to settle for the vice-presidential line) include Maryland’s former governor, Republican Larry Hogan, and the general flotsam that has floated around No Labels for years. (At one No Labels New Hampshire presidential primary forum I covered in 2019, speakers included Marianne Williamson and Tulsi Gabbard.)
Leading Democrats of the centrist persuasion, including Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and No Labels co-founder Bill Galston, are now scurrying away from the group as fast as they can, pointing out that characterizing a race likely pitting Joe Biden against Donald Trump as one in which no sober-minded centrist could make a choice—which is precisely No Labels’ line—is pernicious hooey. [...]
For an organization that once included at least one serious political intellectual (Galston), No Labels has been willfully indifferent to the leading role that the Republican Party’s plunge into ethno-nationalism has played in the current political polarization. Galston’s Brookings colleague Tom Mann and his co-author, the American Enterprise Institute’s Norm Ornstein, documented the degree to which the Republicans’ move rightward has greatly eclipsed the Democrats’ move left, but that seems to have made no impression on the No Labels crowd. Neither has No Labels noticed that the elements of Bernie Sanders’s left-wing program that Biden has embraced—affordable child care, tax credits for families with children, free public-college tuition, higher taxes on the rich—are, by the evidence of every poll on the subject, among the most popular public policies with the American public.
Manchin told the Post: “If enough Americans believe there is an option and the option is a threat to the extreme left and extreme right, it will be the greatest contribution to democracy, I believe.” Asked if he would join a No Labels presidential ticket, he said, “I don’t rule myself in and I don’t rule myself out.” Typical Manchin murk.
As Meyerson concludes:
With each passing day, it becomes clearer that No Labels is fundamentally a vanity enterprise, offering such figures as Manchin, Hogan, and even Lieberman a way to stay in the limelight. Its ancillary effect may be to enable Trump or some other Trumpified Republican to take state power, at considerable cost to American democracy and decency. To No Labels and the Manchins of this world, that appears to be something between a secondary and a negligible concern.
With democracy perched on a knife’s edge, with women forced to join livestock as beings without reproductive rights, with the fossil fuel industry and its puppets willing to ignore the climate crisis, with economic inequality rampant, medical bankruptcies common, gun violence a plague, white supremacy still widely embraced, a Supreme Court majority peopled by reactionary liars, and LGBTQ Americans under legislative attack, running an independent candidate intent on fantasy bipartisan compromises with Republicans who have shown themselves dedicated to making things worse while blocking anything to make them better is indeed hooey, pernicious, and perilous.