Erik Hayden at The Atlantic with the round-up:
On Monday, organizers for the nascent centrist/bipartisan group No Labels expected a thousand Democrats, Republicans and Independents to gather in New York City to decry hyper-partisanship and listen to a star-studded line-up of speakers including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Florida Governor Charlie Crist and many others. The movement says it is not a think-tank, a third party, or any “stalking horse” for any centrist candidate to get elected. It also eschews endorsing a single issue, preferring to say that it seeks “common sense,” “less ideological” approaches to governing. Since No Labels is abstaining from any position other than noting that it would like to get away from “hyper-partisanship,” pundits are speculating what, exactly, the purpose of the movement is, and how it will work.
Jillian Rayfield at Talking Points Memo:
Among No Label’s goals are to “establish a Political Action Committee that can operate in the 2012 primary races of members who get challenged by the ideological extremes of either party,” to “monitor and track the activities of all members of congress to ensure they are not playing hyper-partisan games,” and to “recruit one million Citizen Leaders to be part of No Labels effort.”
The list of speakers today included:
Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Congressman Bob Inglis
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
Congressman Tom Davis
Senator Joe Lieberman
Senator Evan Bayh
Senator Joe Manchin
Governor Charlie Crist
Lt Governor Abel Maldonado
Congressman Michael Castle
And though the logo is a red and blue bison, the group takes inclusiveness seriously: The gift shop offers a veritable menagerie of bipartisan animal swag. Just don’t try to to find a donkey or elephant.
Christopher Beam at Slate:
Everything you need to know about the new political group No Labels is contained in its slogan: “Not Left. Not Right. Forward.” It’s smug. It sounds like an Obama campaign catchphrase. And it ignores the whole reason politics exists, which is that not everyone agrees on what “Forward” is.
A group of political and media A-listers descended on Columbia University Monday morning for the group’s big launch event, which co-founder Mark McKinnon dubbed in his introductory remarks “our little Woodstock of democracy.” No Label seeks to be the voice of reason in an increasingly hyper-partisan environment—a counterweight to interest groups at either end of the political spectrum. Instead of rewarding candidates who spew partisan talking points, No Label says it will raise money for moderate candidates who embrace what co-founder Jon Cowan calls the “three C’s”: co-sponsors, common ground, and civility.
The guest list at Monday’s confab said as much about the group as its slogan. Attendees were a mix of media commentators (David Brooks, Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski), recent political losers (former Delaware Rep. Mike Castle, former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist), politicians who aren’t seeking re-election (New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh), and moderates who have special permission to buck their party (incoming West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman). In other words, a bunch of people with nothing at stake.
That’s what they’re calling it — the “No Labels Anthem,” presumably to be played whenever Mike Bloomberg walks into a room or “Morning Joe” goes to commercial or, I guess, as mood-setting music whenever RINO candy asses like myself have a lady friend over. According to the description at the site, here’s all it took to make it happen:
It only took one conversation with Lisa Borders, one of the founding leaders of No Labels, for Akon to immediately understand the meaning of this movement’s message. Never give up your label, just put it aside to do what’s best for America. With lyrics like “See a man with a blue tie, see a man with a red tie; so how about we tie ourselves together and get it done,” Akon shares his passion for politicians to put the labels aside so we can find practical solutions to our nation’s problems. Akon stayed up all night to create this song and now you can listen to it for free and share the song to help inspire others to put their labels aside.
So Akon’s on board with the RINO/DINO fusion message of No Labels? (A “fusion” soundbite from this morning’s launch via Jim Geraghty: “You just have to look to Arizona to see extremists who are trying to divide us.”) That’s interesting, because here’s what he had to say right before the 2008 election:
If he [Obama] doesn’t get into office, I’m gonna change my citizenship. I’m moving back to Africa. You can hold me to that. I’m afraid to live there if he [McCain] is President. The decisions he makes scare me: he’s making selfish decisions, he’s doing whatever it takes to get into office.
Either this guy’s views of Hopenchange and liberalism have changed profoundly over the past two years or he’s under the impression that Obama himself is beyond labels. (An Obama soundbite does feature prominently in the song.) Which, if true, would likely come as a surprise to potential independent presidential challenger Mike Bloomberg and perhaps to No Labels co-founder David Frum, who once wrote a long post in defense of the candidate whose policies had Akon ready to, er, leave the country in 2008. In fact, the man himself was supposed to show up at today’s big launch to perform the tune but got caught in a midwestern storm. Instead we got … what you’ll find below.
I’m in D.C., not New York, but in slow moments I’ve been checking in with the video feed for the launch of No Labels, the most important post-partisan trojan horse for generic liberal politics since either Unity08 or HotSoup.com. It’s easy to mock — I notice that the mountains of derisive Twitter comments are not being quoted when moderators dip in to quote from social media — but what strikes me is how the rhetoric for a bland, good government-and-handshakes “movement” is identical to the Glenn Beck 9/12 movement.
Contrast this with Evan Bayh’s comments at the event — his first since disclaiming interest in a 2012 comeback bid for governor of Indiana. Bayh, who suggested that the problem with the Senate was that members of different parties gathered in caucuses (“it’s almost tribal”), cited a few examples of Republicans and Democrats coming together for the greater good. He cited the aftermath of September 11 and the financial crisis of 2008. He described a scene from 2008 where Ben Bernanke warned senators that the sky would collapse if the banks weren’t rescued. “We looked at each other,” said Bayh, “and said, okay, what do we need.”
This made me double back to the March 13, 2009 launch of Glenn Beck’s “We Surround Them” movement. Beck told viewers that if they remembered how they felt in the grip of an existential crisis, they would be inspired to come together.
On September 10th, Americans were playing politics and they had chosen to bury their heads in the sand and ignore the coming threat. I remember how picture perfect the day was. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and America seemed invisible, and yet, in the blink of an eye. That airplane appeared to hit a little bit down the building around the 50th or 60th floor. Again, it struck flush. The skies were filled with black cloud and our hearts were full of terror and fear. We realized — for the first time how fragile we really were. Then something happened. We came together. We promised ourselves that we would never forget. On September 12th, and for a short time after that, we really promised ourselves that we would focus on the things that were important — our family, our friends, the eternal principles that allowed America to become the world’s beacon of freedom. So once again, America has a choice. Tonight, we can choose to be the Americans of September 10th with our heads buried in the sand. We can be the Americans of September 11th who were unprepared and then paralyzed by fear, despair or anger. Or, we can choose to renew the promise that we all made to ourselves.
It sounded exactly like Bayh, who fantasized again and again about what sort of apocalyptic events could force politicians to be bipartisan. “Look to the vote on the debt ceiling or a run on the dollar,” said Bayh. “It may take that kind of exogenous event, that kind of forcing event, to make it happen.”
The group is comprised of a lot of midterm losers (oops, mustn’t label) and retirees. And while they decry name-calling, Avalon immediately denounced partisan loyalty as “cowardly.” (Do these non-labelers put a dollar in the jar every time they use a label?)
It turns out it’s hard to operate without labels. “We’re going to call ourselves the radical center, the people who care about results, not rhetoric,” said former congressman Tom Davis. “Radical” and “center,” Mr. Davis? For shame.
The group says it has raised $1 million already. That suggests that people will spend their money on anything, or rather nothing. Really, why is disbanding “labeling” a virtue? It’s a con job, really to demean those who have strongly held beliefs for which they rigorously advocate. That is, after all, what small “d” democracy is all about. So as for me, I’ll stick to candor, truth in advertising and robust debate
John Podhoretz at Commentary:
Today marks the announcement of the new crusade called No Labels, which is about … well, it’s hard to say what it’s about, except that there’s too much partisanship and polarization and we need to work together to get things done. Various politicians (L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa, N.Y. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, former GOP Rep. Tom Davis, and, of course, Michael Bloomberg) are speaking about moving the country forward by finding common ground without vilification.
Do they mean things like … the Iraq war, for which half the Democratic caucus in the Senate voted in 2002? Or the No Child Left Behind Act, probably the most bipartisan piece of legislation of our generation, back in 2001? Or … the TARP bailout in 2008, which had bipartisan support as well? Those votes, and the policies that followed from them, have really done a lot to advance the cause of bipartisanship, no?
Anyway, I’m watching the No Labels webcast. And guess what? At this very moment, as I type, a grand total of 508 people are watching the webcast