'No Labels' Lacks Truth in Labeling

Some of you may have noticed the new “citizens’ group,” No Labels, called into being recently by a group of elite, politically connected, self-appointed leaders to combat what they regard as political name-calling and “hyper-partisanship.”

The difference between hyper-partisanship, which should be banished, and plain old everyday partisanship, which presumably meets with their approval or at least acceptance, is never made clear, although Ron Radosh has just argued very persuasively here on PJM a few days ago that the No Labelers seem to find nearly all of the “hyper-partisanship” they condemn on the right, not the left. Thus Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne can write with a straight face that moderation is “very much alive on the center-left and among Democrats” but is “so dead in the Republican Party” that even “staunch conservatives” such as David Frum are viewed as apostates.

Dionne can write that “[t]he truth is that the American right is much farther from anything that can fairly be described as ‘the center’ than is the left” and “there is no far left to speak of anymore” only because what until recently were far left positions have now been taken up by a leftward-moving mainstream liberalism.

What is clear, I think, is that No Labelers don’t like some of the language that appears regularly on many of the lefty blogs, and they don’t like well over half of the Republican Party and none of the Tea Party. What they want to do is police political speech, getting rid of most of it that is not “moderate.” A good example of their attitude is represented in a revealing quote from one of them, Mitch Dworkin, identified as a Dallas political consultant, in a recent Washington Post article:

"The country is not governable right now," he said. “It’s a bunch of little brats and children who throw tantrums if they don’t get everything they want."

No Labels, that is, wants to assume the role of a stern national schoolmarm.

“Our political discourse,” its Statement of Purpose intones, “increasingly offers up cynical, petty partisanship at the expense of practical solutions to the challenges facing our national well-being.” But not to worry; with the guidance of No Labels, “We can overthrow the tyranny of hyper-partisanship that dominates our political culture today.”

This self-important unctuousness (just think David Gergen) was brilliantly skewered December 19 by George Will, who declared that

the group’s premise is preposterous and its pretense is cloying.

The premise, obscured by gaseous rhetoric, is that political heat is inherently disproportionate. The complacent pretense is that it is virtuous to transcend the vice of partisanship....

No Labels purports to represent a supposedly disaffected middle of the ideological spectrum. Some No Labels enthusiasts speak of eliminating "political retribution," presumably meaning voters defeating candidates with whose positions they disagree. No Labels promises to police the political speech of the intemperate.