No Labels might be less of a joke if the group’s list of 24 “Problem Solvers,” committed to bipartisanship and civil language, did not include Jon Huntsman (who not only holds no office but regularly smeared Republicans during his presidential campaign with such jibes as “anti-science” and recently accused Republicans of having no soul) or Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who is unmatched in his vitriol, penchant for anti-Israel remarks and general incivility.
One gets the sense the group is not so much interested in getting rid of labels as in getting rid of conservatives.
If No Labels is indeed interested in solving problems, they should start not with the politicians but with the people who put them there. The voters, God bless ‘em, do not punish the Jim Moran types but return them to office again and again. They vote for divided government. They are upset about the debt and about every measure to fix it except taxing other people (now we’ve done that) and cutting foreign aid (which is a ludicrously tiny amount of the budget). They self-segregate and tune in only to left-leaning and right-leaning media. They are horrendously uninformed or under-informed (hence the small number of people who can identify prominent government officials, know which party controls the Senate, etc.)
If the No Labels folks would like better government, why not put forth their own budget plan (could they possibly do it?) or, better yet, start educating the public about the realities of our debt. Simply running around to hush people (they can start with Moran) who behave, well, like partisan pols is a waste of time.
It usually takes an uncommon president and some creative leadership on the Hill to break through the bickering and inertia. Unfortunately, Barack Obama is president, not Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan.
However, here are three suggestions for efforts No Labels could rally behind:
1. Repeal campaign finance reform, allowing individuals to give all they want to the political parties and to candidates. That will help kill off the third-party money that elevates extremists and fringe candidates. It will also alleviate the pols from spending so much of their time raising money. The best thing we can do to moderate the extremes is to revive the centrality of political parties, which used to play a vital role in achieving consensus and weeding out unfit candidates.
2. Improve the mainstream media. The Politico-ization of the media gets worse every year — gossip instead of news, invented conflict, hyperbolic headlines with no substance. There are few capable TV interviewers (after Wolf Blitzer and Jake Tapper, I run out of names) who will examine and debunk both left and right figures. The White House press corps in recent years has become exceptionally poor at pushing the administration for answers. And don’t get me started on what passes for cable evening “news” shows. (Everyone who thinks Ed Schultz makes politics better, raise your hand.) It is a truism that without an informed public and a thriving, sober press, democracy falters.
3. Get some constitutional perspective. The system of checks and balances was designed precisely to protect the political minority’s rights and to slow imprudent action. Maybe, had the Obama administration not jammed its bill through on a party-line vote with questionable tactics, we could have reached a more bipartisan solution on health care. Moreover, we have very good governance at the state level, suggesting that another constitutional principle, federalism, should be embraced anew.
The one thing that is not going to help cool passions or encourage cooperation is to have Jon Huntsman hectoring all of us. So in the interest of comity, No More Huntsman.