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Jerry Shenk


No Labels

by Jerry Shenk
 

OK, pay attention. This gets confusing: Unhappy with how they're labeled, in order to discourage those who label them, some members of Congress have proposed banning useful labels, formed a coalition and labeled it "No Labels."

No Labels labels itself as a force for "good" by seeking to reduce Washington's partisan labeling. But in order to reach their label-less goals, the No Labels coalition must label "who and what they're not" — only less charitably than they themselves dislike being labeled.
If that hurts your head a little, don't panic. Tortured "logic" is a Washington staple.

Despite "borrowing" from Sam Rayburn to label conservative colleagues "jackasses," Republican Rep. Charlie Dent joined No-Labels, as did Rep. Ryan Costello, several other members of Pennsylvania's House delegation and Democratic Senator Robert Casey, Jr.

Slate writer Christopher Beam summarized: "Everything you need to know about…No Labels is contained in its slogan: 'Not Left. Not Right. Forward.' It's smug. …And it ignores the whole reason politics exists…not everyone agrees on what 'Forward' is."

Indeed.

More Beam: "No Labels says it will raise money for moderate candidates who embrace…the 'three C's: co-sponsors, common ground, and civility "
Bingo! Suffocating platitudes aside, when political motives are in doubt, look for the financial and/or electoral interests.

No Labels may be emulating the fund-raising strategies of the nearly-extinct House Democratic "Blue Dog" coalition who, for years, labeled themselves as "moderates," or center/swing voters. Compared to fellow Democrats, Blue Dogs typically did better at raising campaign funds from a wider range of interests with business before Congress.

The Wall Street Journal described Blue Dogs as "more keenly attuned than their colleagues to that force of universal goodness, the profit motive."
There is campaign cupidity among the No Labels group, too, and special interests are rewarding them.

But, at Forbes, John Tamny saw things this way: "[No Labels'] call for political harmony is…nothing more than a bipartisan surrender to big government forces…seeking to enhance the mandate of our national political class."

Tamny's right. America's existential problems — spending and debt — resulted from entirely too much centrist cooperation. Democrats and Republicans, including members of No Labels, "cooperated" to increase the national debt by $13 trillion in as many years -- $9 trillion in the past seven alone — to more than $19 trillion.

It's simple: When one side advocates and the other opposes more spending and programs (or claims to), compromise always results in at least some, sometimes massive increases in both.

As No Labels uses them, the words "compromise" and "civility" come across as self-promotion, political posturing packaged as "policy" in order to attract favorable publicity, public support and campaign cash.

Gridlock may be the best chance to preserve America for our grandchildren until government is placed into the hands of smarter, wiser, more-principled and courageous public servants.

Politics today isn't any nastier than it was fifty years ago, nevertheless, lowering Washington's partisan sound level may be worthwhile. However, Washington needs fewer big-government centrist dealmakers and many more limited-government game changers.


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