No Labels (NL)

No Labels (NL)


* Asserts that exclusionary political labels—e.g., conservative, liberal, Republican, Democrat—are largely to blame for the animosity and “gridlock” plaguing Washington
* Its 16 co-founders are mostly liberal-left Democrats.
* Seeks to increase the power of the President while diminishing that of Congress

No Labels (NL) was launched in December 2010. The group’s creation was announced in a December 3rd Washington Post article penned by one of its co-founders, Brookings Institution senior fellow William A. Galston, and Daily Beast / Newsweek journalist David Frum. Claiming that “the [political] center has collapsed, and ideological overlap between the parties has vanished,” the authors asserted that Republican office-holders had become too conservative, and Democrats too liberal:

“Although 30 percent of grass-roots Republicans consider themselves moderate or liberal, and 60 percent of Democrats consider themselves moderate or conservative, their voices are muted in the nation’s capital. As increasingly polarized media feed centrifugal forces, potential primary challengers stand ready to punish deviation from party orthodoxies. Only 22 percent of the Pew respondents thought that cooperation was likely to happen under these circumstances.”

As historian Ronald Radosh put it: “What they clearly want, but shy away from saying, is a new centrist party to emerge from the heart of both the Democratic and Republican Parties.”

NL describes itself as “an action– and results-oriented organization” dedicated to “uniting Americans left, right and center to take our country back from an extreme minority that has paralyzed our government.” Asserting that exclusionary political labels—e.g., conservative, liberal, Republican, Democrat—are largely to blame for the animosity and “gridlock” plaguing Washington, NL seeks to “move America from the old politics of point-scoring toward a new politics of problem solving.” To join its network of “several hundred thousand Republicans, Democrats and independents,” says NL, no one “need[s] to shed [his or her] identity” as “a proud liberal, a proud conservative or anything in between.” The only requirement for membership is to “be open to the idea that people with different beliefs really can set labels aside and come together to make our country work again.”

Contrary to its own self-description, however, NL does not represent liberal and conservative leanings even-handedly. Its 16 co-founders are mostly liberal-left Democrats; a small few are moderate Republicans, and none are true conservatives. To view a list of NL’s more noteworthy co-founders, click here.

On July 13, 2012, NL unveiled an 11-point plan titled “Make The Presidency Work” (MPW). Its key provisions were:

  • “Twice a year, the president should be able to introduce legislation directly to Congress for a fast-track [majority] vote … bypass[ing] partisan obstruction.”
  • The president should be granted “expedited rescission authority,” similar to the line-item veto authority that empowers governors to remove specific provisions from state spending legislation.
  • To avoid “the lengthy and highly intrusive [Senate] vetting process,” the number of presidential appointees subject to Senate confirmation, particularly in the case of “mid-level” officials, should be reduced.
  • Any presidential nomination not formally confirmed or rejected by the Senate within 90 days, would be confirmed by default.
  • The president should be empowered “to reorganize—or even eliminate—redundant parts of the federal government.”

Each of the foregoing provisions is intended to increase the power of the president while diminishing that of Congress. As NL co-founder Nancy Jacobson puts it: “We’re trying to make the presidency more effective.” A New York Times analysis notes that under NL’s proposed policies, the president “would have more latitude to reorganize the government, appoint his own team, reject special-interest measures, and fast-track his own initiatives through Congress.” This, says the Times, would “cut through some of the institutional obstacles to decisive leadership that have challenged President Obama and his recent predecessors,” and “would go a long way toward restoring faith in the presidency.”

For additional information on the MPW campaign, click here.

In November 2012, it was reported that former Utah governor Jon Huntsman would soon sign on as a co-chairman of NL.

On December 13, 2011, NL initiated its “Make Congress Work” (MCW) campaign, which called for members of Congress to meet specific time deadlines for submitting annual budgets; to limit their use of filibusters; to work a full five days each week; to conduct monthly question-and-discussion sessions with the president; to make “no pledge but the pledge of allegiance and their formal oath of office”; and to do everything possible to minimize inter-party hostilities. For details on these and other provisions of MCW, click here.

For an overview of all the key initiatives, meetings, conferences, training sessions, and press events that NL has held during the course of its history, click here.

NL is structured as a 501(c)(4) social welfare advocacy organization, which means it is not legally required to reveal the identities of its donors. The organization says only that it is funded by “hundreds of Republicans, Democrats and Independents … who are fed up with the hyper-partisan gridlock in Washington.”

NL emphasizes that it does not take positions on certain controversial matters like abortion because the group is “not interested in fighting” the type of “never-ending culture war” that the “extremes” have sought to foment by exploiting such “’wedge’ issues.”

Political commentator George Will takes issue with NL’s crusade against political labels. Says Will: “People have different political sensibilities; they cluster and the clusters are called parties. They have distinctive understandings of the meaning and relative importance of liberty, equality and other matters…. When people label themselves conservatives or liberals we can reasonably surmise where they stand concerning important matters … The label ‘conservative’ conveys much useful information about people who adopt it. So does the label ‘liberal.’”

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