Feel Free to Label Me

The absurdity of the "No Labels" movement

"We are not labels—we are people."

So begins the absurd, anti-democratic "declaration" of the soon-to-fail "No Labels" organization. This movement of rejected liberal Republicans and triangulating Democrats (oops, there I go again with the labels) is, unlike groups of partisans and ideologues with bad manners, really interested in solving America's problems.

"Not left, not right, forward" is its motto.

The answer, my friends, is always in the muddled but inspirational middle. And partisanship "is paralyzing our ability to govern"—because, as you well know, Washington didn't spend trillions and reform a significant sector of the economy in just these past two years.

Was that not sufficiently polite? I hope it was, because if I've learned anything from the civility police at No Labels, it's that there's nothing as vital to the health of democracy as good manners. In conscientious tones, No Labels speaks for the average American. Yes, you only think you're upset with your elected officials for being scoundrels with pliable morals. Actually, you're just pining for more centrism.

So this week, No Labels unveiled its mission in the epicenter of American principles: an Ivy League university on the Upper West Side of New York. The Columbia University shindig featured No Labels Übermensch New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, a man whose disdain for politics-as-usual and ugly hyper-partisanship is so acute that he skipped the entire process and bought himself three terms.

And really, does anyone feel like a "label" rather than a person?

This very morning, I woke up in a neighborhood inhabited by hopelessly misguided people who disagree with my sound political philosophy. Yet I bought a cup of coffee from the local barista, and she never once asked me what I thought about health care reform. The soy milk I used—hey, I'm trying to fit in—came from a farmer who, like most of you, could not care less what I think, either.

So unless human nature drastically changes, No Labels is unneeded and inconsequential. Yet it's doing no one any favors by feeding the myth that we're a country teetering on the edge of catastrophe.

Haven't we been saddled with politics ever since Cain filibustered Abel? Pharisees and Sadducees? Patriots and Tories? Bolsheviks and the dead? In a historical context, aren't these mildly contentious, nonviolent debates we're having about as stable as politics can get in a democracy? We've had two landslides, for two sides, in two cycles, lest anyone believe Americans are ideologically rigid.

Do we not already have a significantly moderated political system? Two parties representing a general left-right divide? If one party isn't restrained from within, typically the other party will create balance by taking power. What sort of political system would we have if the out-of-touch insiders of No Labels persuaded us to cede debate without making our ideological cases? Is "moving forward" for the sake of moving forward a virtue?

Finally, No Labels also claims that "the consequences of inaction have never been greater, because the issues we face have never been more serious, more complicated, or more dangerous."

Really. Never?

Admittedly, I'm no Will Durant, but I find dust bowls or tens of thousands of corpses on the beaches of Europe to be as complex and dangerous as controlling debt. Actually, a lot more complex.

Not to mention, most of that debt was the result of the wonders of bipartisanship.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Visit his website at www.DavidHarsanyi.com. This column first appeared at Reason.com.

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