Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Centrist Political Group Trying to Promote Civil Bipartisanship, But Will It Work?

Okay, so it’s got a pretty lame name, this new bipartisan group, No Labels, which is calling for D.C. politicians to stop insisting that every issue be seen strictly through a partisan lens and demands that lawmakers put aside their fierce political cynicism in order to seek consensus, all the while trying to be a tad civil to one another, as opposed to demonizing and screaming at one another.

All of these goals sound so eminently reasonable, in the way that Jon Stewart’s Rally for Sanity sounded reasonable. Who WOULDN’T want to seek out the middle ground of issues, where most Americans find themselves, as opposed to the noisy political edges which suck up all the oxygen and media coverage. (It’s a lot more fun for the media to cover nastiness and sniping from either side of the political aisle -- particularly when they hurl insults at one another, throw up roadblocks and offer poison pill amendments to bills -- than it is to cover the moderates in either party ‘cause they're not turning red and calling the people who don't think like them soulless monsters.) The way things operate nowadays, there’s nothing to be gained by staking out a moderate position on anything, not when the parties are currently doing business with a “you’re either with us or against us” mentality.

Which is why something like this “No Labels” group (seriously wish they’d come up with a better, snappier name) -- comprised of people who don’t lambaste a Republican who works with Democrats or who doesn’t tow the party line as a RINO (and the same for a Dem who works with Republicans) -- seems so promising, at least to those of us who aren’t on the political extremes and who don’t see it is as a mortal sin to agree with (or seek out agreement) with someone from another political party.

Here’s an excerpt from this organization’s “declaration:”

“We are not labels – we are people.

We care deeply about our country.

We are frustrated and concerned about the tone of politics.

We are passionate about addressing America’s challenges.

We are Democrats, Republicans and Independents.

Most importantly, we are Americans.

We believe hyper-partisanship is destroying our politics and paralyzing our ability to govern.

We may disagree on issues, but we do so with civility and mutual respect.

We believe in the vital civil center — a place where ideas are judged on their merits.

. . . And yet, we have a crisis of governance – A crisis that compels us to work together to move America forward.

We must put our labels aside, and put the issues and what’s best for the nation first.”

Hmm. What to make of this? Idealistic for sure, Frank Capra/Mr. Smith Goes to Washington idealistic. But will it, can it become a bona fide “movement” with real clout with lawmakers? Can it make a difference?

The Huffington Post reported that No Labels will have its first, splashy launch event on Dec. 13 at Columbia University where several prominent current and former pols will discuss the virtues of political civility and moderation, including Joe Scarborough, the Republican former congressman and current host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe. His co-host, Mika Brzezinski, who leans toward the Democratic side of things, will moderate the panel.

Among the other scheduled launch party participants Huffington Post named included: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, Independent (formerly Democratic) Senator Joe Lieberman, former Republican Rep. Tom Davis, Republican Rep. Chris Shays, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former Republican Gov. Christie Todd Whitman.

Think something like this has a shot of altering the dialogue in D.C., of promoting bipartisanship and actually getting stuff done or is it, to quote another Capra film, just “sentimental hogwash?”

Image credit: No Labels.

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