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Politics Without Labels? What a Silly Concept ^ | December 9, 2010 | Jonah Goldberg

Posted on 12/09/2010 7:04:44 AM PST by Kaslin

A group called "No Labels" is getting an awful lot of buzz these days, despite the fact it has raised only $1 million. (Though it sounds more impressive if you say it like Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers movies: One. Million. Dollars.) The professed idea behind No Labels is that its members don't believe in labels, by which they mean things such as Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative. Some black-hearted cynics see No Labels as a Trojan horse for a presidential bid by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent who finds the two-party system an unfortunate obstacle to his ambitions.

No Labels denies this. According to its website, No Labels is a centrist, middle-of-the-road group whose motto (at least its members believe in mottos!) appears to be "Put the Labels Aside. Do What's Best for America." It goes on: "We are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents who are united in the belief that we do not have to give up our labels, merely put them aside to do what's best for America."

Elsewhere, it likens itself to the Korean Demilitarized Zone, which it hilariously describes as an area designed by North and South Koreans alike for "cool heads" to craft "elegant solutions." No Labels wants to be a "Depoliticized Zone" that serves a similar purpose. Never mind that the real Korean DMZ is one of the most heavily mined and dangerous places in the world, where nothing fruitful has happened for half-a-century.

But bad metaphors are the least of their problems. These no labelers start from the premise that if you want what's best for the country, you must declare independence from your political party because Democrats and Republicans alike are either politically brainwashed dupes or are less than fully patriotic.

Such fuzzy thinking is a symptom of the growing fetishization of the "center" as an ideologically distinct and superior location and "independents" as a philosophically coherent group. In reality, there is no single center in American politics, and there are many different kinds of independents. Indeed, "pure independents" -- i.e. voters with no allegiance to either party -- amount to barely 10 percent of the electorate and a mere third of the number of people who call themselves independents. And these purists don't even vote much. There are very conservative independents and there are very liberal independents, just as there are people who think all of their positions are centrist, even though they might seem absurdly right-wing to some or creepily left-wing to others. The confusion partly stems from the fact that Americans have a habit of equating the label "centrist" with "reasonable" and the label "independent" with "thoughtful" or "free thinking." (Yes, I'm afraid they're all labels.) Hence even folks who want to expel the U.N. or fund the Pentagon through bake sales tend to cast themselves as misunderstood centrists.

This highlights one of the great things about political parties and political labels. If I tell you I'm a conservative Republican, you'll have no idea what my views are on Buffy the Vampire Slayer or beef jerky, but you'll have a good idea of what I think about taxes and foreign policy. No, partisan labels aren't perfect; both parties have ample disagreements within their ranks on pretty much every issue. But they're better than nothing. They're clarifying, not confusing. In other words, labels aren't "meaningless" as so many self-described independents claim, but meaningful. If anything, what's meaningless is the claim that you don't believe in labels when obviously anybody who speaks intelligently about anything must use them.

What no-labelers really mean is that they don't like inconvenient disagreements that hinder their agenda. And that's what is so troubling, indeed so undemocratic, about this claptrap. When they claim we need to put aside labels to do what's right, what they are really saying is you need to put aside what you believe in and do what they say. When activists say we need to move past the partisan divide, what they mean is: Shut up and get with my program. Have you ever heard anyone say, "We need to get past all of this partisan squabbling and name-calling. That's why I'm going to abandon all my objections and agree with you"? I haven't.

No Labels says it's "about taking the politics out of problem-solving." It is amazing how cavalierly people say this sort of thing, as if this wasn't the rationale behind pretty much every dictatorship since the dawn of man. Nearly once a week, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman gives voice to his full-blown man-crush on China's one-party dictatorship because -- according to Friedman -- the Chinese, unlike us, can implement "optimal" policies without getting bogged down in such distractions as elections, the rule of law, human rights, etc.

Look: You can't take the politics out of problem-solving. Politics, even in China, is the art of problem-solving. People aiming to yank the politics out of government invariably end up removing the democracy instead.

TOPICS: Editorial

1 posted on 12/09/2010 7:04:47 AM PST by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin
"No Labels is a centrist, middle-of-the-road group whose motto"

Which is itself a label but one so elastic as to be essentially meaningless. Best I can tell they are situational pragmatists with no long range goals or convictions and principles to guide them on their journey to nowhere.

2 posted on 12/09/2010 7:16:56 AM PST by circlecity
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To: circlecity


3 posted on 12/09/2010 7:41:26 AM PST by Matchett-PI ( Sarah Palin / Marco Rubio - a "can't lose" ticket for 2012..)
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To: Kaslin; Anima Mundi; ebiskit; TenthAmendmentChampion; Obadiah; Mind-numbed Robot; A.Hun; johnny7; ..
This is excellent; bookmarked and pinged.
When activists say we need to move past the partisan divide, what they mean is: Shut up and get with my program. Have you ever heard anyone say, "We need to get past all of this partisan squabbling and name-calling. That's why I'm going to abandon all my objections and agree with you"?
No, and I never expect to. Insisting on the conceit that you cannot be labeled is arrogant. Just like - I would suggest, identical to - claiming to be objective. Either way, you are highly subjective because you have rejected the possibility that where you stand has something to do with where you sit.
Having declined to examine where you sit, you have (or at least affect to have) no idea of the extent to which where you stand is correlated with your own interest.
In the case of the putative "objectivity" of journalism, journalists need to declare their interest in promoting the idea that what they say is more important than what other people do. And admit that their interest in crying "Fire!" results in continual promotion of the idea that things are getting worse every day.
Unless they admit that, proof exists that they are not even trying to be objective.

4 posted on 12/09/2010 7:44:39 AM PST by conservatism_IS_compassion (DRAFT PALIN)
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To: Kaslin

I suppose this has something to do with that ludicrous, silly interview Michael Bloomberg gave to Katie Couric last evening?

5 posted on 12/09/2010 7:49:51 AM PST by Buckeye McFrog
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To: conservatism_IS_compassion


6 posted on 12/09/2010 8:01:59 AM PST by E.G.C.
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To: Kaslin
"Middle of the Road" equals political road-kill.

Garde la Foi, mes amis! Nous nous sommes les sauveurs de la République! Maintenant et Toujours!
(Keep the Faith, my friends! We are the saviors of the Republic! Now and Forever!)

LonePalm, le Républicain du verre cassé (The Broken Glass Republican)

7 posted on 12/09/2010 8:25:42 AM PST by LonePalm (Commander and Chef)
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To: Kaslin; conservatism_IS_compassion

Thanks for the post; ping.

Not another self-appointed neo-collectivist gang. Assign yourselves to getting rid of corrupt individuals in all branches of government and all unnecessary collectives receiving government funding. Label them. (Internal)Problems solved.
Otherwise...go away.

8 posted on 12/09/2010 8:44:53 AM PST by PGalt
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To: circlecity

Labels are only a detriment to those who are trying to hide their agenda, ie, leftists.

This is why they keep changing what they prefer to be called,
because their old “label” carries information with it.
Information that points out their fascist tendencies.

9 posted on 12/09/2010 8:47:08 AM PST by MrB (The difference between a (de)humanist and a Satanist is that the latter knows who he's working for.)
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To: Kaslin

You can’t take disagreements out of life. There will always be people who think you’re wrong, even in the same party. But at least you know who you are. That’s can’t be said of who believe in nothing which I think captures perfectly the essence of the so-called moderate and is the driving spirit of our time. To put it differently, “no labels” is simply a euphemism, for cowardice. If you can’t stand up for your principles and defend them, you’re not really worth listening to. And people without real conviction deserve to be dismissed from our national conversation.

10 posted on 12/09/2010 9:12:01 AM PST by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives In My Heart Forever)
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