No Labels is not a third party spoiler: It’s ensuring a viable option for the American public
What is spoiling American politics today at the federal, state and local levels is the absence of civility, bipartisanship, and respect for equality and democracy. No Labels, which I co-chair with former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman and former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, has not and will not be a political spoiler in 2024 as recently mischaracterized in an Op-Ed by Paul Begala to CNN. No Labels is not a third political party. We are a national movement of Democrats, Republicans and Independents working to bring America’s leaders together to develop common-sense two-party solutions to America’s biggest problems.
Two things, however, are abundantly clear in American politics today. First, the ideological extremes have become more powerful than ever within the two parties. You need to look no further than the divisive rhetoric that drips from small-dollar fundraising appeals to see how bad it’s gotten: Extremists on both sides use over-heated rhetoric to argue that donations are required to help them stop the “threat” posed by the other. It’s to the point that mere talk of bipartisan cooperation gets framed as surrender—attempts to find mutual accommodation are akin to treachery.
Second, we know that the American people are growing increasingly disgusted by a politics that speaks more to our fear than our hopes. They don’t view the big challenges facing our country as either/or propositions. They don’t think America should have to choose, for example, between border security and compassion for the “Dreamers” brought here as children. They don’t think we should have to choose between energy security and cleaner energy. And they wonder why our leaders can’t just work toward the commonsense solutions that incorporate balanced sensibilities—why neither side seems willing to accept anything but everything they demand with no exclusions.
Nothing about this is entirely new, but it’s getting worse. And that’s not because no one has seen the problem for what it is. Things are getting worse because the forces of partisan anger, fear and division on both sides are becoming the new status quo, and they’re digging in against the interests of the American people.
That’s why some are suddenly now mobilizing to attack and to stop No Labels’ efforts to establish the groundwork for a potential independent ticket that reflects a bipartisan platform of key policies and issues that will be our nation’s major focus in 2024. Some Democrats say an independent bipartisan ticket would inevitably “spoil” the election in favor of a Republican like Ralph Nader may have done in 2000. Some Republicans say the No Labels bipartisan independent efforts would just throw it to the Democrats like Ross Perot may have done in 1992. Let me put it simply: They’re both wrong.
Here’s the core problem: Both sides are mischaracterizing what No Labels is actually doing. No Labels, a nonpartisan organization, has been working for more than a dozen years to get Democrats and Republicans to work collaboratively in search of bipartisan solutions. We’ve notched a whole range of victories, founding the bipartisan Problem Solves Caucus in the House, building a bridge between similarly inclined members of the Senate, helping to push for bipartisan legislation like 2021’s historic infrastructure bill and, perhaps most importantly, supporting a range of leaders in Washington who display the true courage required to reach across the aisle.
Now, No Labels is adding new arrows to its quiver. We’re well on our way to establishing a ballot line in all 50 states that would allow independent and bipartisan policy solutions and candidates if necessary to engage in the 2024’s general election if the two parties nominate unpopular extreme candidates.
No Labels is on this path not because we want to “spoil” the election for either, but because our national polling research has uncovered some staggering realities. First, more than 60 percent of Americans do not want a rematch of the 2020 election. Second, a growing portion of the electorate is open to supporting a moderate independent or a bipartisan unity ticket, including a particularly marked interest among African American, Hispanic, Portuguese, East Asian, and South Asian voters. Third, our polling and modeling have revealed that an independent ticket could win an outright victory in the Electoral College if the two major parties put forth two unappealing extreme alternatives.
Those who have a stake in maintaining the old duopoly claim that insurgent tickets will only serve to spoil the results. But that’s an old way of thinking. When Ross Perot ran for president, 33 percent of Americans considered themselves independent or unaffiliated. Today, that figure is over 40 percent. If establishment figures in both parties don’t want an independent ticket to run, they can simply stop pandering to the loudest and most extreme voices in their respective parties. They can stop ignoring the vast majority of the country. And if they do, No Labels will continue to focus in on the amazing work we’re doing in the House and Senate.
To put it succinctly: No Labels is not looking to “spoil” an election—but nor should anyone assume that America can keep doing the same thing and get a different result. Perpetually vilifying the other side is no substitute for solving the country’s problems. Until the parties begin serving the general electorate and giving them the sorts of choices they clearly desire, the need for bigger innovative and transformative political changes will remain on the table.
Benjamin F. Chavis is co-chair of No Labels.
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