The well-meaning but naïve group calling itself the No Labels movement just moved one step closer to running a third-party presidential candidate in 2024. On Monday, the group released a lengthy set of policy proposals which, the group says, reflect the views of the millions of voters alienated by left-leaning Democrats and MAGA Republicans.
Donald Trump is not known for prayer, but he should say one for No Labels. If No Labels evolves into a third-party that competes in the 2024 election, it could put Trump back in the White House. No Labels, if it runs a 2024 “unity ticket,” is likely to be a spoiler. Political experts expect Trump to benefit.
No Labels describes its genesis as a response to the harsh division in American politics. The group argues that millions of Americans—more than either the Democratic or Republican party—support centrist policies and want the two principal parties to quit fighting and address America’s problems. Sounds like common sense, doesn’t it? That is how No Labels describes its policy agenda.
The leaders of No Labels are aware of the possibility of disrupting the 2024 elections, but, to date, are playing coy. The group tells us they are not a political party despite registering to run a presidential slate in several states. It has been recognized as a party in Arizona, Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, and Utah. More states will follow.
But who is this group that claims to be above current American politics? The group describes itself as “a national movement of commonsense Americans pushing our leaders together to solve our country’s biggest problems.” But what does “commonsense” mean? No Labels suggests the term refers to non-divisive policy solutions, policies other than those championed by either the far right or far left.
No Labels has, sort of, determined what those policies are. It claims such policies reflect extensive polling and listening sessions with voters but the policy positions, at least as published in the group’s July 2023 brochure, lack specificity. The problem with this is that when nationally important policy is concerned, the devil, or the genius, is usually found in the details.
While one hopes that No Labels will abandon its $70 million campaign, that is not likely. Can we trust them to not run a 2024 candidate? Have they earned our trust?
The leadership of No Labels seeks to dispel concerns that the movement will be a spoiler in the 2024 election with a promise: “We will run a candidate only under the proper environmental conditions, which must be met for us to proceed.” It adds, “We will measure these conditions rigorously, through regular polling and research.”
What are the “proper environmental conditions?” Who will determine if those conditions have been met? And who will interpret the polls? If those questions worry you, consider that the group has, thus far, refused to release the identities of its donors, independently reported to include several major Republicans. In other words, No Labels asks for our trust, but it is funded by dark money. Given that, we should worry.
No Labels is also running against “Washington.” The appeal of No Labels to many of its supporters is the belief that Washington politics are an obstacle to getting anything done in Washington. The group argues that Washington policymakers, with rare exceptions, are out for themselves. It also argues, “Washington only works for Washington. We’re working to change that.”
The appeal is a retread. It worked for Donald Trump and dozens of other legislators who have won seats in Congress—or the presidency—by running against Washington.
In the case of No Labels, the group suggests that the nation’s most passionate political divisions are somehow illegitimate and that extremists prevent a reasonable, commonsense solution from being developed. Does that mean that legislators who believe climate change is an existential crisis that demands extraordinary actions are part of the problem? It does, but only if you believe climate change can be addressed successfully with a compromise that carefully considers the interests of the fossil fuel industry. That seems naïve.
No Labels also promotes compromises for guns, abortions, border security, and more than a dozen other issues in its policy manifesto. Interested in the details? Read the pamphlet, and you will find generalities, not details. The details, No Labels seems to assume, will be worked out once the far right and left lose their power. Does that strike you as naïve?
No Labels seems to imply that passionate politics are toxic. The group argues, “This moment demands American leaders and citizens alike declare their freedom from the anger and divisiveness that are ruining our politics and most importantly, our country. A United Front. “
One wonders if No Labels would have proposed the colonies seek a middle ground with its dispute with England before the American Revolution. And should the North have split the difference with the South on the issue of slavery? (Actually, several attempts to “find the middle” were attempted before the Civil War started. One could argue that things like the Missouri Compromise postponed the Civil War and left millions in bondage for decades.)
Some issues are sufficiently important that a compromise should not be sought. You are either for a woman’s right to choose or you are not. Suggesting that those outraged by the repeal of Roe v. Wade are somehow “ruining our politics and more importantly, our country” is offensive.
Is it possible for No Labels to succeed? Yes, if the goal is four more years of Trumpism.
J.E. Dean is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government, and other subjects.