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No Labels? No Ideas.
Scheming to run a third-party presidential candidate, the group has released a banal bogus ‘platform.’
OVER THE WEEKEND, NO LABELS, the political organization that threatens to ensure Donald Trump’s election in 2024 by getting a third-party candidate on the ballot across the country, issued its so-called 2024 platform.
Sixty-three pages of political pablum, the “platform” is meant to soothe us to sleep, which is exactly the state No Labels hopes voters will be in so they pick its candidate. History tells us that third parties never win, but they can flip elections to candidates like Trump who can’t secure a majority. That outcome in 2024 would severely endanger American democracy.
You don’t have to take my word for which party a No Labels candidate would benefit. As the New Yorker and the Washington Post noted in recent weeks, “Even No Labels’ own polling shows Trump winning a three-way race held today” because the presence of a No Labels candidate on the ballot would “pull more votes away from President Biden than . . . Trump.”
No Labels calls its platform “Common Sense,” but Tom Paine, who authored the original anti-British pamphlet with that title, must be looking for an air-sickness bag in his grave as he rolls over in it. His revolutionary tract did not equivocate or indulge in bothsidesism. Common Sense aimed rhetorical arrows directly at those who counseled against revolution or favored making peace with an autocratic king. “Ye that oppose independence now,” Paine wrote, “. . . are opening a door to eternal tyranny. . . . O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose, not only the tyranny, but the tyrant, stand forth!
In sharp contrast, this new document is a manifesto of the mealy-mouthed. Instead of acknowledging that one of our two political parties is directly challenging the democracy upon which our freedom stands, No Labels acts as if all will be well if we just vote for a sensible third-party candidate in the middle of the road. But the problem with their 2024 brand of being in the middle of the road, to adapt the old saying, is that we’re the ones who’ll likely end up roadkill.
So let’s have a look at the head-in-the-sand No Labels platform, and its banalities, mindless equivocation, threadbare legislative proposals forever stuck in Congress, and magic-wand waving over complicated problems.
Shall we start with the banalities?
On voting rights, the No Labels platform literally says, “Every legal voter should have the right and the ability to vote, every legal vote should be counted, and every counted vote should be verified.”
Can anyone possibly disagree with that? The devil is not in No Labels’s details, but in its platform’s total lack of them when it comes, for example, to the words, “every legal vote.” In the age of the Big Lie, legality is in the eye of the beholder, and MAGA Republican legislatures never met a minority vote they didn’t seek to suppress.
Then there’s national security: “A world led by America is safer than a world led by Russia and China would be.” I’m for that, how about you?
On civil rights, the document says, “Every American deserves respect and freedom from discrimination.” Now are you on board?
As for transgendered individuals, No Labels refuses to take a stand, simply offering the hope for leaders “who consider this controversial issue from a position of dignity, respect, and common sense.” This is one of many times in the document that the noun “common sense” or adjective “commonsense” are used to dodge specifics on difficult subjects.
Regarding “dignity” and “respect,” those words perfectly characterize one of our current parties’ approach—the party led by a president who this month expressed pride in Delaware, his home state, for having “the first transgender state legislator in American history.”
ON POVERTY AND SCHOOLING, No Labels advocates that “no child in America should go to bed or go to school hungry” and “every child in America should have the right to a high-quality education.” Oh, but wait, here No Labels also offers a proposal:
The next president and Congress should significantly expand funding or tax incentives to ensure young children receive the proper nutrition they need to grow and thrive.
Problem 1: Congress, led by No Labels’s former honorary co-chair Joe Manchin—whom No Labels is now reportedly courting to become its third-party candidate—joined Republicans in killing President Biden’s Build Back Better legislation, which would have provided a monthly child tax credit of $300 per child under the age of 6 and $250 for each child between the ages of 6 and 17.
That funding disappeared in the revised version that Manchin supported, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Also gone was support for preschool and increased support for school lunches and child nutrition.
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Problem 2: On the issue of America’s deficit, No Labels’s platform, characteristically going out on no limb, says: “Washington must stop spending so much more than it takes in.” But every spending proposal throughout the document, like the ones on hunger and crime and the military, advocates increasing spending.
What does No Labels offer as a solution to the deficit problem? Hold onto your hat! A blue-ribbon commission on whose recommendations Congress must vote “yay” or “nay.”
You don’t need to be an expert on Washington to know that, as an old AP headline put it, “Blue-ribbon commissions [are] often where touchy issues go to die.” And anyone who thinks that Congress would commit to voting on a commission’s unadulterated proposals doesn’t understand how Congress works . . . or more likely, hopes you don’t understand.
It’s a parallel story when you get to gun safety. The No Labels platform calls for adoption of “universal background checks by closing the notorious gun show loophole.” That’s a fine idea. But left unmentioned is the fact that the NRA and Republicans shot down (so to speak) legislation last year to do just that. No Labels forgets to tell us how to circumvent that minor obstacle.
Oh, the platform also says that Congress should ban gun sales to anyone under 21. Similar problem. When Congress tried that for long guns, a federal appeals court, following recent pro-gun Supreme Court rulings, in 2021 said it was unconstitutional. Scour the No Labels platform for any critique of SCOTUS, and you’ll find zilch.
On immigration, No Labels proclaims “we must immediately regain control of our borders,” but must also “double down on attracting hard workers from around the world to . . . contribute to our world-class economy.” And while we’re at it we should “create a path to citizenship for the Dreamers.”
Why hasn’t some other politician thought of that set of policies? Oh, wait, President Biden did.
FINALLY, WE HAVE the something-for-everyone formulas. On the economy, No Labels super-helpfully suggests getting our 1.9 percent growth over the past two decades closer to what it was after World War II, 3.5 percent. That “would create trillions in additional tax revenue and make every budget problem we have easier to solve.”
They might as well have offered Americans “a chicken in every pot and an electric car in every garage” since everyone would love to get there but No Labels doesn’t tell us how.
On fixing Social Security, it’s simple: “America just needs a president and a Congress with the courage to say that Social Security’s impending insolvency is a challenge that we can and must solve together.” Somehow, that very incantation hasn’t worked when it’s been tried time and again by presidents and congressional leaders over the last quarter century.
On abortion, No Labels lets citizens read into its view whatever they like. The platform praises virtue on both sides, ending up by telling us absolutely nothing about what No Labels would do: “Abortion is too important and complicated an issue to say it’s common sense to pass a law—nationally or in the states—that draws a clear line at a certain stage of pregnancy.”
Let’s acknowledge two good ideas in the platform: requiring universal national service for young people and making it easier to vote early.
But those positive suggestions—neither of which is fleshed out—are far outweighed by page after page of tired talking points that lack specificity.
THERE ARE SERIOUS MOMENTS IN HISTORY when one side of the political divide favors authoritarianism and the other opposes it. At such times, it becomes necessary to choose, and to do so with clarity and courage.
That is what Tom Paine did in 1776. Years later, in a letter to his friend Elihu Palmer, Paine observed that on some subjects, “it is necessary to be bold. Some people can be reasoned into sense, and others must be shocked into it. Say a bold thing that will stagger them, and they will begin to think.”
The No Labels would-be imitation of Paine’s Common Sense fails his test.