Published: The Huffington Post 2010-12-13
I went to the No Labels Launch. There were lots of high-wattage people wandering on the stage and around the auditorium. The No Labels Movement is looking for a way out of the insane political marginalization that our country is experiencing right now. It is an admirable movement and worth checking out (Link).
Speaker after speaker shared how when they were elected to Congress (lots of Congresspeople spoke) the caucus system would essentially mold their souls. Upon arrival to Congress , they were handed a jersey by their caucus leadership and were told, wear it or be primaried, or blackballed, or sent to watch bad Dr. Who episodes in the basement of the Capitol. The unwritten rule - do not contact the other side. Most would capitulate and not perform contacting maneuver. The Congresspeople talked about all the negative effects of this environment.
No Labels is looking for a method to supply backbone to those who would stand up to these forces. This group realizes that just because you were elected as a Democrat from the 3rd District of State A, you are no different than the Republican elected for the 5th district of State B. You both volunteered, ran, and won the same chance to serve your country. You are equal to all except the overlord masters of the evil party system. Those who maintain this system will make sure that a challenger will await you to deliver your sentence as political traitor, if you dare cross the line.
The goals of No Labels are pretty solid. They want to work within the system we have. They don't appear to looking at a third party. It is about serving for the common good. The do not want people to change their ideology. Using standard outreach methods, they want to set up college chapters across the country to find young people to enter the system. (One could say to mold them before either of the other parties get to them, which may not be a bad idea.) They want to set up a chapter in every congressional district. There are metrics on which to hold officeholders accountable. All of these things are well and good, but it appears they are working at an extremely high level if they want to invite the number of people they hope to get. Everything appears to be targeted at the national level.
This is part of a continuum. The Coffee Party (Link) is a Publicly Speaking Civilly 101. No Labels is a grad course. It was proper the launch was held at Columbia University in New York. The Coffee Party is looking for people to engage in discourse -- they will not politicize. No Labels is about putting discourse into action. As I looked at the people running the show, they are all impressive national folks, but I think they are missing a middle step.
They don't have a real hook to bring people to them. Yes, there is know-how, but there is no why. Why should someone who has checked out of the system give a rat's rear end about Congress right now? They can't do anything about it until 2012. These people just elected need to figure out which way is up before being held accountable for anything. Am I being generous, yup, ya gotta let them do their job.
If I had control of the No Labels chess board, I would make the following moves. Recruit the committee people of both parties. Yes, those who are already there! The lowest ranking elected officials in the country would be constructed as a Pawn-line. They are the grunts given the Mushroom treatment by the party bosses -- placed in the dark and fed a lot of -- well you know. Take their temperature. I will lay odds the party bosses aren't doing it very often. Ask them what they want and what they are looking for out of the government. Engaging committee people in this way, the No Labels people may spark something in these activists. If nothing else, they will know where they stand in their environment.
If there are committee vacancies, get No Labels people appointed. Define No Labels people as those who will ask if what they are doing benefits their communities first (as opposed to the party). These are your bishops.
Once engaged, set them loose to find people for school board elections that are the best their community has to offer -- regardless of party affiliation. Given school cuts, finding parents who want the best for their kids should not be hard to find. They would make a potent knight attack. 2011 will be a year of local elections. Use 2011 as a training ground for 2012.
That will fill some of the gap in the middle.