Second Thoughts on No Labels

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 14 2010 9:21 AM

Second Thoughts on No Labels

There have been two media reactions to "No Labels," the new post-partisan-ish organization that probably isn't a stalking horse for Michael Bloomberg and probably is a way for liberal pragmatists to get more attention for themselves. (As Ben Smith points out , Democratic fundraiser Nancy Jacobson is the organizer behind it all.) The first reaction: An embrace from TV media elites, like Joe Scarborough, who fill the air with discussion of how bad it is that Republicans and Democrats can't come together to cut the deficit. The second reaction: Derision from the more political science-oriented pundit class , who point out that partisanship, far from being the problem with politics, is how politics works. Change and ideas come from ideological actors. The party closest to those actors adopts the ideas. On the left, it's the labor movement demanding that Democrats expand access to health care, and on the right it's small business owners demanding estate tax cuts.

I mostly agree with Chris Beam about the futility of No Labels , but I guess I'm optimistic that the group, or something like it, could achieve something if it worked exclusively and coherently on two issues. These issues would be:

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


1) redistricting

2) tax reform

In the first case, we actually have an issue that neither party benefits from in the long term -- they play a poker game in which they hope that they're in control of a state every 10 years, so they can redistrict it. And we have examples, in Iowa and California, of wealthy good government types turning this into a populist issue and getting voters behind non-partisan redistricting. There are already groups that work on this, but sure, a new group with a lot of hype and high-profile endorsers could take it on anew.

In the second case, we have an issue that will be worked out by partisans bartering and trading off, as was the case in 1980s. But it's a complicated and (admit it) boring issue that could benefit from a lot of free media attention from people who generate media attention for a living.

So: That's how can see No Labels becoming less than totally useless.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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