Feel Free to Label Me

The absurdity of the "No Labels" movement


"We are not labels—we are people."

So begins the absurd, anti-democratic "declaration" of the soon-to-fail "No Labels" organization. This movement of rejected liberal Republicans and triangulating Democrats (oops, there I go again with the labels) is, unlike groups of partisans and ideologues with bad manners, really interested in solving America's problems.

"Not left, not right, forward" is its motto.

The answer, my friends, is always in the muddled but inspirational middle. And partisanship "is paralyzing our ability to govern"—because, as you well know, Washington didn't spend trillions and reform a significant sector of the economy in just these past two years.

Was that not sufficiently polite? I hope it was, because if I've learned anything from the civility police at No Labels, it's that there's nothing as vital to the health of democracy as good manners. In conscientious tones, No Labels speaks for the average American. Yes, you only think you're upset with your elected officials for being scoundrels with pliable morals. Actually, you're just pining for more centrism.

So this week, No Labels unveiled its mission in the epicenter of American principles: an Ivy League university on the Upper West Side of New York. The Columbia University shindig featured No Labels Übermensch New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, a man whose disdain for politics-as-usual and ugly hyper-partisanship is so acute that he skipped the entire process and bought himself three terms.

And really, does anyone feel like a "label" rather than a person?

This very morning, I woke up in a neighborhood inhabited by hopelessly misguided people who disagree with my sound political philosophy. Yet I bought a cup of coffee from the local barista, and she never once asked me what I thought about health care reform. The soy milk I used—hey, I'm trying to fit in—came from a farmer who, like most of you, could not care less what I think, either.

So unless human nature drastically changes, No Labels is unneeded and inconsequential. Yet it's doing no one any favors by feeding the myth that we're a country teetering on the edge of catastrophe.

Haven't we been saddled with politics ever since Cain filibustered Abel? Pharisees and Sadducees? Patriots and Tories? Bolsheviks and the dead? In a historical context, aren't these mildly contentious, nonviolent debates we're having about as stable as politics can get in a democracy? We've had two landslides, for two sides, in two cycles, lest anyone believe Americans are ideologically rigid.

Do we not already have a significantly moderated political system? Two parties representing a general left-right divide? If one party isn't restrained from within, typically the other party will create balance by taking power. What sort of political system would we have if the out-of-touch insiders of No Labels persuaded us to cede debate without making our ideological cases? Is "moving forward" for the sake of moving forward a virtue?

Finally, No Labels also claims that "the consequences of inaction have never been greater, because the issues we face have never been more serious, more complicated, or more dangerous."

Really. Never?

Admittedly, I'm no Will Durant, but I find dust bowls or tens of thousands of corpses on the beaches of Europe to be as complex and dangerous as controlling debt. Actually, a lot more complex.

Not to mention, most of that debt was the result of the wonders of bipartisanship.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Visit his website at www.DavidHarsanyi.com.


NEXT: When Mainstream Media Say "Flip This House," Don't.

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  1. Sounds like Communism to me.

    On the other hand, if “No Labels” actually meant the death of identity politics…

    1. Sounds like Communism to me.

      I see what you did there.

  2. Without labels, how are we going to continue to exclaim our superiority over libertarians?

    1. What shrike and Edwin said!

  3. Not to mention, most of that debt was the result of the wonders of bipartisanship.


  4. I feel like a number. Like a stranger in this land.

    1. You mean a stranger in a strange land?

      1. I am not a number! I am a free man!

  5. Yes, it’s not bad ideas, policies, and actions that have gotten us in trouble. It’s bad marketing.

    1. Just like General Motors!

      1. Why no one buy me? 🙁

        1. Me wonder same thing!

        2. Yo dawg, I herd you liek camping in your SUV. So we put a tent in your suv so you can camp while you drive!

  6. Bloomberg/Spitzer 2012!


    We don’ need no steenkeen labulz!

  7. What sort of political system would we have if the out-of-touch insiders of No Labels persuaded us to cede debate without making our ideological cases?

    Why, we have the best of all worlds. We’d have our cake and eat it too. No teams. No partisans. We’d have (wait for it) peaceful anarchy!

  8. Labels do suck as words are relative…what’s a libertarian? Some of these Reason writers barely pass IMHO.

    1. Words are not relative. Words have meaning. Usage is relative.

      1. suasage is relative too.

        1. So is shagging your daughter.

      2. But usage is what gives words meaning, e.g. the transformation of the label “Liberal”

        1. That can be debated. A popular language and culture theory is that we already have concepts/meanings and create the words to fit our worldviews, e.g. the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.

          1. Damn you Led Zeppelin joke tag!

          2. This is not what the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis says.

  9. who, like most of you, could not care less what I think, either.

    That’s true. Wait, why am I reading this, again?

    because the issues we face have never been more serious, more complicated, or more dangerous.

    What if I disagree on what the issues are or how to solve them?

    1. More re-education will be needed, I’m afraid.

    2. who, like most of you, could not care less what I think, either.

      That’s true. Wait, why am I reading this, again?


  10. I disagree.

    I started off as a person who pointedly refused to identify as either a Democrat or Republican.

    It’s one of the things that allowed me to evolve in a more libertarian direction. The two party system leads people to adopts whole-sale the platforms of Team Red or Team Blue, without considering all that they contain in an open minded way.

    By getting people to stop identifying themselves as adherents of either party, you allow them to freely explore what they really think, based on more fundamental prinsiples. One of those is liberty.

    In my opinion, a lot more people would realize that they are libertarians if they felt free to adopt positions that diverge for the two major brands.

    1. Oddly, H&R, the “libertarian” blog, rarely talks about individuals. The writers and commentators here self-identify as “libertarians,” which is itself a label. It’s also a political party. Some of the commentators call themselves “anarcho-capitalists” while eschewing other “team” names. It’s fun to watch.

      1. True, but most of use identify as “small l” libertarians. Which means, we’re basically entitled to revise and extend our libertarianism as we see fit.

        Anyhow, while identifyiong as a libertarian or an anarcho-capitalist, or whatnot might involve a certain amount of ideological bandwagonnery, those labels tend to be based on a more cohesive set of prinsiples.

        Whereas signing up as a Democrat or Republican generally requires you to perform a lot more of the self-lobotomy in order to stay on the team.

        1. Then you don’t disagree with him at all. No Labels sees no difference between Republican and Democrat versus liberal and conservative, or even libertarian. It’s all so much needless, divisive labeling!

          You’re reading more sophistication into their position than their plain words are able to justify. The reject all many of logical identification and coordination, whether it be for party or principals.

    2. People are perfectly capable of having their own opinions while also realizing the practical value of picking a side that can win elections.

      1. Win elections to do. . .what?

        1. Get shit accomplished other than patting yourself on the back for believing all the right things.

          1. Get shit accomplished, like:
            bailing out billionaires?
            continuing to torture people who haven’t been convicted of anything?
            continuing a war that should have never happened, and another that should have ended six years ago?
            using massive police force against those who use a nearly harmless plant for medicine (or pleasure, for that matter)?
            fighting the court that overruled DADT?
            making sure that marriage rights accrue to all citizens regardless of gen… oh, sorry, you didn’t get that shit accomplished, did you?

            Glad you got so much else accomplished, though. Hope you’re proud of it, asshole.

            1. Better than what the fascists in the GOP would have accomplished. Whoever guaranteed everything would be perfect?

              1. “Perfect”? How about, “accomplishing a single thing the base wanted”?

              2. The GOP didn’t even have to win in ’08 because Barry was the best candidate they could put forth to continue GW’s policies.

                1. In addition, he also fired up the base better than any repub could have.

                2. So no else has said it yet, but isn’t this just a lib ploy to come up with an answer to the tea party movement? You can do it, so we can do it better? I hope it crashes and burns.

              3. You said fascists!!!

                1. Apparently, just accomplishing shit is good enough for Tony.

                  Even if it’s based on codifying wealth-envy as tax policy, and getting more people hooked on “entitlements”, thus ensuring a new crop of Team Blue voters.

                  But, hey, someone’s gotta stamp out those EBT cards…

                  1. FIFY your ancient Republican doubletalk makes me want to vomit. Yeah this is definitely a time when “the poor have it so good, the rich are so oppressed” makes sense. Your (their) pathetic excuse for a psychoanalytic explanation of policy preferences, “wealth envy” raises the question, what do you call it when the rich have been taking all the money from the middle class? Maximum douchebaggery?

                    1. How does voting for ONE Republican in the last fifteen years, make one a Republican?

                    2. The middle class of this generation is larger and better off than the middle class of any previous generation. The “rich” class is also larger and better off than in any previous generation. The same could be said for the poor. It sounds like win-win-win to me.

              4. OUR fascists are better than THEIR fascists!

              5. Tony|12.15.10 @ 2:04PM|#
                “Better than what the fascists in the GOP would have accomplished.”

                So the communist Democrats have done better?

            2. I accomplished shit this morning, but it got flushed.

          2. That’s kinda why a lot of libertarians vote Republican.

            1. Well there’s never an excuse for that.

              1. Do like I do… vote for ONE Republican, if there’s a decent one on the ballot.

                Like Ron Paul, for instance.

                But NEVER more than one.

                Oh… and don’t vote for Democrats.

              2. Tony|12.15.10 @ 2:04PM|#
                “Well there’s never an excuse for that.”

                I keep thinking there must be some sort of excuse for your abysmal ignorance, but I just can’t find it.

            2. What excuse do they use on themselves to rationalize that behavior?

          3. Yes, I believe that’s what you’ve accomplished: shit.

            1. Far more pithy than me, PL.

          4. And, with 200 plus years of elected officiousness we’ve accomplished exactly what?

    3. I agree that some version of this movement could be useful, but not this version. Why is it that whenever some pseduo-third party gets going, claiming to speak for the “center” they really just speak for moderate Manhattan liberals?

  11. “Not left, not right, forward” is its motto.

    On, Wisconsin! (“‘Forward’, our motto …”)

    1. In and out works good too.

  12. Take that number 6 guy…if he wasn’t labeled, than when he escaped (I don’t know why he would want to escape – seemed pretty sweet life to me – there were plenty of hot chicks willing to do him)number, uh ??? was it number 1? or number 2? Its been so long… (Did they really call someone number 1 or number 2 on TV …in a drama????)
    Anyway, it he hadn’t been labeled, that big balloon wouldn’t have been able to know who to go bouncing after. Try explaining to a balloon, “OK, he is about 5’10” 175 pounds, white guy, no distinguishing marks…”
    The balloon would just have said, “CRIKEY – YOU PEOPLE ALL LOOK LIKE THAT”
    And finally, if you can’t figure out how to pop a balloon, maybe you shouldn’t get loose.

    1. I’ve seen the Simpson episode, but always wondered what it referenced. This has not helped clear that up…

      1. Brit TV show called “The Prisoner” with Patrick Magoon (SP?)

        1. Watch the McGoohan version, not Cazaviel’s remake.

          1. So that’s how you spell Magoon…

      2. @Anonymous Lurker

        If only there were some kind of magical device in front of you to which you could ask such questions and retrieve such answers.

  13. “In my opinion, a lot more people would realize that they are libertarians if they felt free to adopt positions that diverge for the two major brands.”

    I agree with this, but fail to see that pompous grandstanding by a bunch of political hacks could accomplish that.

  14. And really, does anyone feel like a “label” rather than a person?

    Well, that’s actually the problem, isn’t it? Most people have become walking labels because they have barricaded their minds down to one little ideological playbook, and don’t realize what living caricatures they are. Most of them will think that they are amazingly open minded, and that they are the ones fighting the narrow view of the Other Side.

    What if I disagree on what the issues are or how to solve them?

    It depends. Do you disagree because you can demonstrate the solution will fail using science or historical data or whatever, or do you disagree because it fails an ideological purity test?

    Too many people fall into the latter category all the while honestly believing themselves to be in the former.

    1. “Most people have become walking labels because they have barricaded their minds down to one little ideological playbook, and don’t realize what living caricatures they are.”
      Sorry you’re having problems; I’m not.

  15. Wasn’t “No Labels” something that the lying twat Naomi Klein was pushing? Although I think she may have meant consumer goods.

  16. “Not left, not right, forward” is its motto.

    I do think that the direction in which you are moving “forward” matters.

    They seem to be saying we should just let go of the steering wheel, and tromp the gas pedal. That would be “not left, not right, forward”, but I doubt it would turn out well.

    And, of course, we all know from the personalities involved that this is just another attempt by the establishment liberals/statists to rebrand themselves for another bite at the apple.

    1. They also seem to overlook that sometimes you need to make a u-turn to get going in the right direction…

  17. A Party of people labelled “No Labels” is promising to be non partisan?

    This whole thing is a running hypocrisy from the word “go”.

  18. Get shit accomplished other than patting yourself on the back for believing all the right things.

    Yeah, because stealing from the poor to give to the rich is pretty satisfying.

  19. The most understood label in the history of political parties is the Tea Party label. Understood, that is, by everybody except for statist politicians.

    1. It means dressing up in 18th-Century drag and pissing and moaning about the debt while being pro-war, right?

  20. If I didn’t think it would hurt my professional life you could label me by tattooing “LIBERTY” right on my forehead (and maybe across my ass for good measure).

  21. You labeled me,
    I’ll label you.
    So I dub thee unforgiven.

  22. Semi off topic. Byran Caplan has a great take on hypersensitivity.


  23. I have not paid much attention to the “No Labels” movement, other than to say to myself, “Wow, that’s pretty stupid.” However, it seems as though the movement is largely comrpised of former partisan politicians who got voted out of office.

    Maybe they should change their name to “No Relevance.”

  24. It seems to me that being labeled means taking a stand. Even if one chooses not to.

  25. Rand would be having a fit right now.

  26. The concept isn’t stupid, but the execution is.

    Could be “No Extremists” instead of No Labels.

    Or maybe “The Status Quo Party” or “Team Purple.”

    What’s amusing is that the way things work in this two-party nation, they would draw politicians and votes to the middle, which are wasted, then in Congress we end up with MORE radical left/right politicians.
    Thanks No Labels party!

    Okay, I guess if they wildly exceed expectations and can really siphon off votes from Red and Blue to make a three-way race, then suddenly some libertarians might have a dark horse shot, because they only need to get >25% of the vote rather than ~50% or so.

  27. When members of congress start regularly killing each other in duels again, I might be concerned that politics is getting too nasty and partisan.

    1. You say that like it would be a bad thing.

      1. No, he’s right: It would be nasty and partisan.

        But it would fix itself in a hurry.

  28. This idea has frequently been abroad — i.e. that our duly elected masters are (one or more of these) too partisan, unresponsive, ideologic, corrupt, or unserious, and that either avg. people or experts without an ax to grind could solve our probems because their sol’ns should be uncontroversial once sufficiently and fairly examined. In the 1990s this produced the process-oriented parties — Independence, Reform, Patriot, etc.

    I think it’s basically the result of wishful thinking and projection of the kind lampooned in Being There.

    1. “avg. people or experts without an ax to grind” would be awesome because if Congress was filled with them, Congress would never pass any laws.

  29. I know Akon wrote a new theme song for the group, but a far more appropriate one already exists that seems to perfectly capture the No Labels spirit: “We’ve Got To Do Something” by Infant Sorrow.

  30. I smell astroturf. What proof do we have that this not yet another desperate attempt by the left to chip away at the tea party?

    1. What proof do we have that this isn’t [insert anything that is impossible to produce negative proof of] ?

      Uh, I guess the answer you’re looking for is none?

      Thanks, sevo.

  31. “Not left, not right, forward” is its motto.

    In conjuction with its motto, the No Labels society is proud to present to you it’s official video game.

  32. Isn’t “no labels” a label in and of itself? Typical (oops), there is something wrong with the mirror.

  33. I am not sure “the middle” means what people think it means here.

    Pragmatic solutions, utilitarian solutions, whatever you want to call them are not necessarily in the middle. The brief interview I saw with the group sounded more like a group trying to focus on utilitarian, results oriented politics rather than “keep my team in power” politics.

    1. I don’t want results, unless that result is “we’re leaving Ballchinian the fuck alone, and not stealing any more of his money.”

  34. You all are pretty funny. How about “I am ____(your name here)____, AND this is what I think”. It would be more interesting than ” I am a libertarian/Republican/Democrat/Tea Party member SO this is what I think”

  35. What kind of fascist unjust country do we live where a doctor makes more money than a guy who smokes crack and lives under a bridge?

  36. I see some genius here. I hear lots of people talk about Democrats and Republicans as though they are remarkably different. Oh sure, they say different things when they violate rights and spend public money like it’s going out of style, but the result is more or less the same. The No Labels people are merely encouraging us to not waste our breath on differentiating what isn’t actually all that different. “Bullshit” is descriptive, unifying, bipartisan, and, best of all, lowers carbon emissions by being 1-2 syllables shorter than either label – brilliant!

  37. How about mbt kisumu sandals this one: there are X driving deaths a year- what % of driving deaths (or serious injuries) involve alcohol, or other intoxicating substances? kisumu 2 People are pretty darn good drivers when they are not impaired.

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