Partisan Identification

We Need Political Labels, and Battles

It's easy to make fun of No Labels; their empty pieties offer no real alternative to business as usual.

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Major parties

In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama demanded "a year of action."

But what we really need, Reps. Ami Bera, D-Calif., and Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., suggested in their SOTU response for the post-partisan, good-government group No Labels, is "a government of collaboration." Not in the Vichyite sense, don't worry—what No Labels proposes is a government with a "formula for how to get our leaders in Washington to start solving problems together again."

What that "formula" might be is never quite clear, but it starts with our representatives moving their flag pins to make room for new congressional "flair." Over 70 members showed up to the SOTU sporting NL's orange "Problem Solvers" pin. The standard, grammatically-challenged version says "Committed to Fix Not Fight," but, for a night on the town, congressmen can download sexier alternatives, like "Make Love, Not Gridlock" or "No More No."

Launched in 2010 to "move America from the old politics of point-scoring toward a new politics of problem-solving," No Labels is back, with a "three-year campaign to create a national strategic agenda" and a new book, No Labels: A Shared Vision for a Stronger America.

"The grownups show up," gushes one Amazon reviewer. But if these are the "grownups," why do they come wearing happy-face buttons and spouting get-along bromides that might have been drawn from a middle-school "No Putdowns" campaign? Does Congress really need its own anti-bullying movement?

In the book's introduction, No Labels co-chairman Jon Huntsman laments the partisan state of the State of the Union: "If we had a national strategic agenda this could all be different. The president and the leader of the opposition could meet before the State of the Union" and "get agreement on goals before the policy-making process starts."

This is how "grownups" are supposed to think about politics? When the old New York Sun started calling "good government" reformers "goo-goos" in the 1890s, they didn't know the half of it.

NL's "Problem-Solvers" blog features a Rubik's Cube logo; as long as we're living in the '80s, "where's the beef?" is a relevant question. What is this "national strategic agenda" anyway?

It involves agreement on "four essential goals": 1. 25 million new jobs; 2. Medicare and Social Security solvency; 3. balancing the budget; and 4. making America "energy self-sufficient."

The last item is mercantilist nonsense, but all four goals are already widely shared by pols. If we haven't achieved them, "it's not because the solutions aren't clear," No Labels argues, "but because we haven't focused our talents and resources." "No one ever actually tells us how they plan" to unite America, co-chairman Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., writes in the book's foreword, "in the pages ahead, you'll read about the 'how.'" Many platitudinous pixels later, the authors write that "there will be a lot of tough decisions ahead. … in this book, however, we have purposely stopped short of suggesting which tradeoffs will be needed." I see.

It's easy to make fun of No Labels; but it's also important, because their empty pieties offer no real alternative to business as usual.

Meanwhile, some of Congress's archest ideologues have proven themselves capable of cross-aisle cooperation on important issues like National Security Agency reform. Socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont and libertarian Justin Amash, R-Mich., have joined to tackle the problem of the surveillance state without the benefit of a "Problem Solvers" pin—as have Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Ill., and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., cosponsors of the USA Freedom Act.

Solving that problem will take a fight, but there's no "fixing" without "fighting."

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46 responses to “We Need Political Labels, and Battles

  1. I’ve got a few labels for them that are both apt and informative.

  2. Oh man, that reminds me. The head of the No Labels group at FSU was smoking hot. I wonder if she’s a lobbyist yet.

    1. Now THIS is important information. Name, so we can Bing/Google?

      Strictly for research purposes, of course…not images…no, no, never…

      1. A google search for “FSU no labels” brought back a Facebook page.

        There’s a blonde on there who appears to be good enough to eat, but no good pics.

      2. I forget. Honestly, when you’re about to turn 30 in undergrad, there’s no reason to store that data. I just had a conversation at some sort of lefty GOTV fair a friend of mine had roped me into working because I had a truck. After the 3rd free beer, I spent as much time quizzing her as I thought I could get away with before the League of Women Voters in the next stall started to question the purity of my motives.

        1. Brooke Renney.

          This is why we can’t have nice things.

          1. My wife and kid are why I can’t have that nice thing.

            1. I’m way out of her league.

              1. The alcohol handicap was definitely on the wrong person that day.

          2. What I have to say about Brooke Renney is too filthy for the Reason boards.

            1. that and she’s “apolitical” political operative scum. but the disdain I harbor for her ilk adds a nice dynamic.

  3. there will be a lot of tough decisions ahead. … in this book, however, we have purposely stopped short of suggesting which tradeoffs will be needed.

    For the love of God and all that is holy. Are these people complete morons? Or do they think the rest of us are? I’m inclined to think the latter. The entire point of political debate is that there are trade-offs. And people have differing views on the relative worth of the things being traded off. When somebody tells me that they don’t want to talk about the trade-offs, they’ve made perfectly clear that they don’t want ME to think about the trade-offs.

    1. Are these people complete morons?

      Simply based on stopping “short of suggesting which tradeoffs will be needed”….yes. Yes, they are.

    2. Here’s the tradeoff – The feds are forbidden from borrowing money ever again, and may not tax beyond 4% (lowering to 0% once the debt has been paid off).

      Now cut spending to fit.

      1. I’m game for THAT trade-off.

    3. I think they’re looking for some kind of psychologic commitment or investment from people 1st. When they get to the hard part, then they can say, “But you promised!” The promoters are the sort who think we can get good results by locking all the bosses in a room and not letting them out, even to use the toilet, until they’ve achieved consensus.

      1. Locking all the politicians in a room and not letting them leave, period, sounds like a great way to get results.

  4. No Labels: A Shared Vision for a Stronger America.

    Bipartisan consensus: our enslavement will proceed at undiminished speed.

    Now my ass hurts.

  5. No Labels co-chairman Jon Huntsman laments the partisan state of the State of the Union: “If we had a national strategic agenda this could all be different. The president and the leader of the opposition could meet before the State of the Union” and “get agreement on goals before the policy-making process starts.”

    Well, that’s okay, then. For a moment, I thought he was advocating some sort of autocratic dictatorship by committee.

    1. Pretty much. That’s why they’re no labels. You just identified the appropriate label for their ideology.

      1. Democracy is dictatorship by majority. But when democracy is considered the highest public ideal, electoral whims composed of nothing resembling justice or freedom become sacrosanct expressions ‘the people’ and not to be questioned.

  6. “four essential goals”: 1. 25 million new jobs; 2. Medicare and Social Security solvency; 3. balancing the budget; and 4. making America “energy self-sufficient.”

    What about my pony?

  7. it’s not because the solutions aren’t clear….

    Why, no, no it’s not clear what the solutions are. Except if you’re simply willing to push massive costs onto anyone who happens to be in the way of your grand designs.

  8. Just as there will always be a place for insipid and inoffensive food, music, television, movies, and books, there will always be people commenting that politics could be fixed “if we all just worked together for common sense ideas.”

    1. Except unlike the insipid and inoffensive food, music, television, movies, and books, the “common sense ideas” always wind up offensive if judged on their own merits.

      1. Wasn’t Steve Allen an exemplar with his book Dumbth?

  9. You know who else had a “three-year campaign to create a national strategic agenda”?

    1. I’m guessing Joe Biden, but only because I don’t think he can count to five.

    2. The NSDAP in 1938 right before they rounded up and exterminated 13 million jews…… or the 1%

  10. “there will be a lot of tough decisions ahead. … in this book, however, we have purposely stopped short of suggesting which tradeoffs will be needed.”

    “We shall mouth empty feelgoods, but take no positions on how to make the feelgoods happen, and write nothing which might later be used against us.”

    1. “We shall mouth empty feelgoods, but take no positions on how to make the feelgoods happen, and write nothing which might later be used against us.”

      The Elon Musk Hyperloop approach to gov’t: Hey, I’m a visionary! You take care of the details!

  11. The United States of America has not had a “national strategic agenda” since World War II and might not ever have one again. The country is now being run by a bunch of mediocre power brokers and special interest groups, plus a bunch of nut case fringe groups. We are in deep trouble and will probably continue to be so for quite some time.

    1. On The Road To Mandalay|2.4.14 @ 2:13PM|#
      “The United States of America has not had a “national strategic agenda” since World War II and might not ever have one again.”

      Yes, that is one positive in the current situation.

    2. when you expand government to the bloated festering mass of pus and tentacles that it is, it becomes unaccountable . the only agenda worth talking about is a timeframe on downsizing the fed into near non-existance

      1. Can’t we just skip that step and go on to the inevitable next one when you come desperately crying to reinstate big government to protect you from the anarchic hellhole that has been unleashed?

        We live in a free, democratic society. The most powerful outside interests are the ones screaming for smaller government (which is a euphemism for fewer taxes and regulations for them). If people really wanted a minimal government, they would have given it to themselves by now.

        1. Tony|2.4.14 @ 4:24PM|#
          “Can’t we just skip that step and go on to the inevitable next one when you come desperately crying to reinstate big government to protect you from the anarchic hellhole that has been unleashed?”

          How about we go to the step where you catch fire and die from your lies?

  12. What we need is “a government of smaller size”. . . like 50+%.

  13. No labels has a pin? Irony! If nothing else is ever solved before I die, I want to see the day when a president can wear white tie without a fucking flag pin. It makes me angry to no end.

  14. The solution to #1 and #4 is the same.

    1) Build 25 million treadmills.
    2) Attach treadmills to generators

  15. Far from being revolutionary or in any different from the mainstream they claim to reject, “No Labels” is merely another variation of the tired, epistemically bankrupt philosophy of pragmatism which dominates lamestream leftoid culture. Pragmatism, like all the rest of modern and postmodern philosophy, indulges a childishly petulant rebellion against the Law of Identity.

    I could not imagine (nor would I care to imagine) a more crudely ridiculous spectacle born from pragmatism, than that of a political movement which upholds a normative goal of standing for nothing and possessing no identity. They should call it the Limp Noodle movement.

    1. *any way different

      Besides, wasn’t this “No Labels” bullshit already floated back in the 60’s and 70’s?

      1. Yes. The commonality? Fucking baby boomers.

  16. All you need to thwart this is to point out the terrible things that happen when you have one-party rule.

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