'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.

Quoting them, Will summarizes their goal:

To achieve a government of “the vital center” that “makes the necessary choices” and “common sense solutions” to put America “on a viable, sound path going forward,” with “free and open markets, tempered by sensible regulation,” a government that “empowers people” with “world-class education” and “affordable health care — provided that it does so in a fiscally prudent way,” and with “fact-based discussions.”


“The perpetrators of this mush,” Will concludes, “purport to speak for people who want to instruct everyone else about how to speak about politics.” And in linking to the Will article, InstaPundit asks and answers: “Why are they against labels? Because if they were labeled accurately, no one would listen to them….”

Since the No Label crowd would like to get rid of labels by gagging conservatives who call Democrats radical leftist socialists (and worse) and, at least in theory,  liberals who call conservatives racist Neanderthals (and worse), you might think they would oppose the most insidious, divisive labeling that permeates and pollutes American politics — official, state-imposed racial classification, a classification that leads to governmental distribution of burdens and benefits on the basis of race. But, of course, being “moderates” (by their own dim lights), they don’t.

If the No Labelers were serious, or wanted to be taken seriously, they should encourage students of all ages to emulate the high school students featured in a Sacramento Bee article:

Martin Luther King Jr. would be pleased by how students in Laguna Creek High School’s “unity class” embody his dream of “a nation where they will be not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

The 37 students in teacher Jeanne Kirchofer’s classroom span nearly every combination of race and ethnicity. About half said they would rather be identified as Americans, erasing race from the boxes. They reflect a trend in California schools, where growing numbers of students and parents decline to state race on forms and tests.

“We shouldn’t be judged by our race,” said senior Jessica Mae Belcher, 17, whose roots are African and Cherokee. She prefers “none of the above” because “we’re all different, but we’re all the same, too.”


Students increasingly object to stating their race, but their government is standing in their way. As the Bee article reports,

From 2006 to 2009, the number of Elk Grove Unified School District students whose parents listed their race as “multiple/no response” went from 500 to 6,200 – a twelve-fold jump in just three years, the California Department of Education says. About one of every 10 of the district’s students now list race as “multiple/no response.”

There’s also been a dramatic rise statewide. Data show the number of K-12 students listing their race as “multiple/no response” has jumped 70 percent, from 124,000 in 2006 to 210,000 last year.

But the U.S. Department of Education, which is trying to close the achievement gap between races, is asking school officials to “eyeball” students who decline to state and check a box for them….

The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to ensure students of all races achieve proficiency in English and math by 2014. So the agency is pressing schools to identify all students by race in 2010-11 or face penalties.

According to the Federal Register, there will no longer be a “no race and/or ethnicity unknown” category and schools will use “observer identification” when a parent or guardian refuses to identify race.

If the No Labelers were serious about ending divisive labeling, they would endorse and strongly support the Decline To State Race Project of Ward Connerly’s American Civil Rights Institute.

“If America has any hope of becoming ‘colorblind,’ Connerly states on the “Decline To State” petition he is circulating,


the American people are going to have to take matters into their own hands and stop checking the race boxes. Without the data that results from racial bean counting, state and local agencies and universities can be stopped in their tracks in their insidious use of race.

American don’t need a No Label organization directed by Washington political insiders to stop racial labeling. We can do it ourselves by refusing to check the ubiquitous racial boxes. But any organization that purports to oppose divisive labeling that doesn’t oppose racial labeling should be treated as the fatuous laughingstock it is.


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