December 13 a new political movement was launched, calling itself “No Labels” (www.nolabels.org). Except possibly for a long list of young people called the “No Labels Generation” on its web site, “No Labels” might just as well have been called “Nothing New”.  The founders are Republican and Democratic political consultants, political development experts, “engineers of primary campaigns”, fundraisers and speechwriters (for, among others, George W. Bush, Mayor Guliani, Hilary Clinton), “internet entrepreneurs”, consultants on  “influence design”, a handful of former politicians and one substance person, William Galston of the Brookings Institution. The long list of “Citizen Leaders” is heavy on CEOs.

The founding Declaration says the organization will target the “vital civil center” and at the press conference launch one leader, Republican consultant, Mark McKinnon, talked about giving a “shout out for good behavior” to “centrists who cross party lines” in order to protect them from the far left and the far right. The “vital civil center” seems to mean the center reached by compromise. Is the center just whatever gets accepted? Or is there a “umpire” totaling up the compromise barter (how much compromise for no unemployment insurance extension? how much for privatizing social security?)?  “No Labels” seems like a great prototype for a new video game with Mr. or Ms “No Label” zooming across the landscape looking for the compromise “Center Hits”.  Maybe if I founded a new party based on the idea that the poor Communists had been misunderstood I could singlehandedly pull the center hits to the left (move over MoveOn.org).

At the “No Labels” launch McKinnon said “welcome to our little Woodstock of democracy here.” This, however, doesn’t look like a muddy boots kind of crowd, qualified to “break down old hierarchies of power and influence” (No Labels “Statement of Purpose”). And as for democracy, our two party system is dysfunctional – largely because it is driven by fundraising – but the answer is not a no party system, which would almost certainly be even more money driven.

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