No Labels: Liberalism Without Labels

Sunday on Meet The Press, three members of the No Labels stable — Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, and media strategist Mark McKinnon, donning a wimpy and emasculating scarf that perhaps symbolized the No Labels “movement”  — continued their week-long public relations campaign touting their newly formed political group.

On Meet The Press, McKinnon proclaimed that the group had success in its very first week of existence because “we brought together the harsh partisans on the left and the harsh partisans on the right” in attacking No Labels.

Perhaps the trio should have instead gone on CNN, because No Labels, which purportedly was formed to “overthrow the tyranny of hyper-partisanship that dominates our political culture today” seems to be adopting CNN’s failed prime-time strategy of elitism under the guise of non-partisanship that tries to be a bit of everything to everyone while standing for nothing.

No Labels, a bi-partisan group formed by veteran self-serving and self-interested political operatives such as Mark Penn, who did not even know how Democratic primary delegates were apportioned in 2008, and David Frum, whose advice to the GOP is often ignored because it would lead to catastrophic failure, launched last week with much fanfare in the elite, mainstream media along the New York-Washington, D.C. corridor.

As McKinnon alluded to, though, the group was also just as quickly panned from across the political spectrum. Liberal New York Times columnist Frank Rich called the group “childish.” Conservative columnist George Will called the group “preposterous.”

Will also called the No Labels mission statement “mush” and said its “perpetrators … purport to speak for people who want to instruct everyone else about how to speak about politics. … Although the people promising to make No Labels into a national scold are dissatisfied with the tone of politics, they are pleased as punch with themselves.”

A look at some of the featured speakers at the group’s launch vindicates Will’s assessment.

There was New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who strong-armed the New York City Council into changing the rules so he could run for a third term, which he barely won. Upon winning, Bloomberg then commented that he did not feel other candidates should have the chance to run for a third term. Translation: a third term is only good if it is for Bloomberg.

Chameleon-like and failed Florida Senatorial candidate Charlie Crist also spoke at the No Labels launch. Though it is unclear whether Crist is a liberal Republican, a moderate Democrat, or an Independent, one thing remains certain: Crist, like many of the other founding members and speakers at the No Labels launch, puts himself, his ambitions, and his self-interests above core principles.

Though the group is barely formed, two things seem patently obvious.

First, since elite liberals have failed in branding themselves as “liberal” and then “progressives” in a country that is center-right, No Labels seems to be another center-left attempt at re-branding the movement. Taken in this light, the group’s deciding not to have a label says a lot about how poorly any group or policy that has an overt center-left tag performs in the center-right political marketplace.

Second, No Labels, which purportedly seeks consensus on a range of issues, accomplished its primary goal of bringing together the left, right, and center in its very first week of operation. Americans of all political persuasions saw the futility of an elitist, wishy-washy, center-left group that lacks core principles yet attempts to become the arbiters and imposers of what they deem to be “sound” political discourse and policy.

As a Texan, McKinnon should know, as the saying goes, “there’s nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos.”

Or, in the case of No Labels, a group and movement that seem to be dead on arrival.