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Attacks on No Labels Only Mask Political Failures

Sunday, December 19, 2010 - 12:00 PM

I've seen some outlandish claims about centrists, and the new political organization No Labels. Keith Olbermann, for instance, apparently thinks we're really conservative wolves in centrist/moderate sheep's clothing. As comical as conspiracy theories like this are, I was genuinely surprised to find similarly absurd claims in in a recent post on this site by Living Liberally founder Justin Krebs.

To be fair, Krebs is spot on in his assessment that No Labels can by no means accurately call itself a movement. They are an organization trying to spark a movement among a large and unrepresented segment of the electorate. Time will tell if they will succeed. Unfortunately, Krebs' post heads downhill from there.

For example, Krebs denigrates No Labels for not having a nationwide network, like MoveOn did in 2003. Now, MoveOn was in its fifth year in 2003, while No Labels has just launched. Comparing MoveOn's actions in 2003 to No Labels' lack of a nationwide network today isn't even apples to oranges, its comparing ripe apples to seeds that have only just been planted.

Krebs also falls into a trap when he plays the childish game of pretending the name No Labels literally means they want people to drop their affiliations. This is a mistake that a casual reader of partisan blogs might make, but not someone who has actually looked into what the No Labels founders have said.

But Krebs' lazy "analysis", and other similarly hyperbolic attacks, are just symptoms of something bigger. The fact that big names on the left and the right are attacking the center is an indication of how far the center has finally come. Until now the few elements of somewhat organized independents and centrists have been largely ignored by the left and the right, because we posed no real threat to them.

The center of the American electorate is best described as a groundswell moving away from the two major parties, their special interests, corruption and out of touch ideologies. Depending on how you define it, this thirty-something to fifty-something percent of the electorate finds itself increasingly unrepresented in our government.

This last cycle showed more independents running for office, and winning, than any time in generations. There are growing third parties in states like New York and Oregon, and they are having more of an impact each cycle. New state and local grassroots groups are forming all the time. Both parties continue to shrink as a percentage of the electorate, the public rates them at historic lows -- and neither is willing to take principled action to avoid debt issues that may force us into Greece-like austerity measures in coming years.

While the Democrats and Republicans bicker, more and more begin looking for something better. We aren't a movement yet, but this sleeping giant is beginning to awaken to the fact that we are going to have to do something about our problems, since neither party seems capable, or willing, to solve them for us.

Solomon Kleinsmith is a nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates. He is currently collaborating with other centrist independent and moderate bloggers on a news aggregation and social networking site, and is always looking for ways to help the independent groundswell as more and more people become disaffected with the two major parties.

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Comments [8]

Mary R.

Recently Krebs opened up a nightclub called The Tank in a building on West 45th Street that used to present legitimate off-Broadway theater. He got it because his rich Daddy has a lease on the building. He angers his neighbors with loud music coming out of this place, hipsters hanging out in front, blocking the sidewalk, leaving cigarette butts all over the sidewalk and on some nights beer bottles. It's in the middle of a residential block and there have been many complaints.

Dec. 23 2010 10:48 AM
Solomon Kleinsmith from Omaha, NE

@Robert David -

What do you mean when you say IndependentVoting.org "sold out pre-launch"?

They've been at the forefront of the fight for open primaries for years. They're not a very big organization, and have to stay focused on their core mission, which is to assist local independent groups, and a handful of issues. I actually visited their offices while I was in NYC... I've been a member for years.

@nervouscat -

They can't just organize online... online organizing is notoriously ineffective when it comes to translating it into actual work getting done.

You don't need to have big rallies, but you can't replace the core functions of a political organization... meetings, phone calls, door knocks, lit drops and events. Nothing is more powerful that personal, one on one, contact between regular people and volunteers. Its actually been proven statistically.

Dec. 20 2010 11:01 PM
nervouscat

If you go to the nolabels.org you'll find it to be set up like a social network where you will discover like minded folks who are also fed up with the ever growing hyperpartisanship in Washington. Maybe it won't fail after all - or turn into a fad - as the skeptics predict.

If you can use the Internet to mobilize the independent, centrist voters, then No Labels has a chance (especially if the people who attended the Stewart/Colbert rally find out about this). Just because independents and centrist are not as vocal as the extremes, they may just simply organize online - these are *NOT* the sort of people that have to yell their opinions at protests and rallies. They will find another way to get their message across. The "mushy middle" is a pragmatic bunch. Do not discount them! They are in the fat middle part of the bell shaped ideological curve - where most Americans reside.

Dec. 20 2010 04:38 PM
Robert David STEELE Vivas from Oakton, VA

I took this in, and included it in today's No Labels Running Update (www.tinyurl.com/NOLABELSNO). You may be on to something, and I have something to offer: Electoral Reform (1 Page, 9 Points). I've blogged this at Huffington Post, and you can also find my open letter to Bloomberg there, both are at the URLs below. IndependentVoting.org sold out pre-launch and refuses to be a proponent for Electoral Reform, so I have written them off as dishonest in the sense that Electoral Reform is the ONLY thing we can all agree on that would put the center back in power. Let's start a movement around THAT!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-david-steele/open-letter-to-mayor-mike_b_796168.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-david-steele/electoral-reform-1-page-9_b_780031.html

Dec. 20 2010 04:30 PM
Solomon Kleinsmith from Omaha, NE

Justin,

Actually I was agreeing with you in regards to the movement thing. They are using the movement thing in their messaging, and I agree with you that its not accurate.

From the talk I've seen so far, it seems that a lot of the folks who are grasstops types would like to see some aspects of what filibuster reform might mean. I'm against getting rid of the 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, but having that same hurdle to stop debate is insane to me... I also wish people would force those who say they want to filibuster to actually put their money where their mouths are and stand on the floor of the senate for hours on end, ala Mr. Smith goes to Washington.

I wonder how many more filibusters would be "filibusted" (haha) if these jokers who block everything had to choose between reading from the phone book on the senate floor and flying somewhere to raise money.

Citizens United was brought up several times at the No Labels launch. If it were up to me there would be severe limits, but that ruling on corporate personhood, that Citizens United was largely a clarification of, is the root of it... and something that a vast majority of people are against. As far as I'm concerned, I don't think anyone but individuals should be able to give money to political campaigns, PACs 501c4/Super PACs, etc, including corporations and groups like unions. All dems seem to care about is blocking corporations from this kind of thing, and all the reps seem to care about is blocking unions. They should both team up for regular people.

I can't stand Fox OR MSNBC, but I do think people should have the freedom to say whatever they want on those cable commentary shows. Just because I can't stand them doesn't mean I should legislate my personal feelings on the subject on them... that is clear government overstep, but thats just my opinion and I haven't heard No Labels people say anything about that.

Although you can be damn sure that No Labels is going to be fighting the rancor from the partisan shows on both MSNBC and Fox. Already have seen some of that actually.

@ceolaf - If you'd actually take a look at No Labels itself, you'd see they're actually not at all about getting rid of labels or affiliations. Thats just garbage coming from people who either haven't looked closely at them, or are only interested in finding ways of attacking them. What the name means is people could get more done if we just sat down and talked, debates, etc... rather than hide behind labels and lob bombs at each other. Reform of the political process like this is just as important as specific policy points.

There are substantive reasons to disagree with No Labels. This, however, is not one of them. Its an obvious straw man if you take a look at what the staff and founders have said.

Dec. 20 2010 04:04 PM
Justin Krebs from NYC

Solomon -

I appreciate your thoughtfulness in this post. While I'm pretty sure we continue to disagree, this is exactly what "It's a Free Country" is for -- to read, listen, argue and act.

Thanks for clarifying that No Labels doesn't consider itself a movement so much as an effort to spark a movement. I think that's fair, and my critique on that point may have been more fairly targeted at the media coverage. I felt like the conference received an undue amount of attention given that it is just a spark -- attention that will be well-deserved if it grows into the type of campaign you envision.

I certainly have nothing against trying to spark something big. Many of the big game-changer organizations we've seen have come from innocuous beginnings. Many other sparks have failed...but at least they tried.

I do disagree with the idea that the center is somehow gaining new strength that it hasn't had in the past. Election after election, candidates compete for those independent votes.

Organizing independents is an interesting prospect and the idea is very appealing. I wish you luck with that if it leads to more people being more engaged in democracy. But I still await to learn more about what No Labels is organizing toward.

If it's toward legislative progress, then filibuster reform would be an important plank.

If it's toward representative accountability, then efforts to combat the pernicious impact of Citizens United and the rise of unaccountable money in politics would be appropriate.

If it's toward empowering an informed electorate, then I would love to see No Labels challenge the influence Fox News has had on distorting public discourse.

It may be too soon to tell...but thanks again for engaging in this debate.

Dec. 20 2010 02:55 PM
Haimerej

ceolaf nailed it.

Bickering about partisanship and talking about getting things done =/= policy. It's the, "getting things done" part that divides people because so many people disagree on the best approach.

Dec. 20 2010 02:30 PM
ceolaf from Reality


NoLabels is dumb because they decry labels -- a tool of politics -- while they claim to be about solutions. And yet, NoLabels is not about policy.

If you want to be about policy, then advance a policy agenda -- or least some policy principles. But to claim to be about policy while simply decrying politics is nothing more than taking potshots while avoiding the heavy lifting -- or any lifting at all.

Dec. 20 2010 12:43 PM

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