10.20.2010

New... err... No Labels

I was invited to an interesting dinner the other night. It wasn't so much a fundraiser - even though it felt like one - but was rather a "support" raiser recruiting names and bodies. The topic of discussion was the soon to be launched No Labels campaign - an initiative that may be doomed to begin with.


From their website:
We are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents who are united in the belief that we do not have to give up our labels, merely put them aside to do what’s best for America.
...
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.
I was pretty excited to be invited as this is right up my ally. Not to mention that I'd get the opportunity to rub elbows with some fairly prestigious Maine politicians in attendance. I never said I'm not guilty of pride. I was certainly guilty of false expectations.

Partisan jingoism is a destructive malady that is disparagingly prolific in our country. A former, well known Maine politician at the dinner spoke about an experience he had while in office with several other peers. He called a meeting early into his elected term that included both Republican and Democrat leaders. Before the meeting started, one individual began by stating how nothing was going to be accomplished in this meeting because a specific individual from the another party was there. Several other ridiculous stories about the present political gridlock were shared, as well as tales of lost political camaraderie - including some rather scandalous events involving drunk congressmen standing on the tops of cars being asked to come inside to vote. 

Now it seems people pass immediate judgement upon others the moment they let them know what political party they're affiliated with or where they are on the left/right political spectrum. It either leads to ostracization or immediate conflict. This is no way to get anything done. 

There's a Buddhist parable about blind men and an elephant. Several blind men are asked by a (perhaps sadistic) king to feel an elephant and relay to the king what they think the elephant is. They all touch a different part of the elephant and have different reports of their findings. For instance one touches the tip of the elephants tail and tells the king the object is a paint brush. Another feels the leg and tells the king it's a tree. They all squabble about their points of view and the argument turns violent - to the kings amusement.

This speaks of not only ideologues, but of the human condition. Truth in its entirety is incomprehensible. Less often is someone completely wrong while another is totally right. More likely we all have pieces of puzzles. To get the entire picture we have to work together. Obviously.

Well... it's not so obvious in American politics.

I went into the dinner excited about and expecting to witness the beginning of a movement to restore sanity to political discourse. I'll put the message that was actually communicated to me throughout the night into as few words as possible: "Let's take our country back from the political extremists who have hijacked the attention of the media and voters."

Let's take our country back? Extremists? Who are the extremists? Isn't that a label? Who are we? Are we better than "extremists" and deserve control of the country? Why aren't there many extremists at this meeting? Why is everyone here (excluding the token Republican) a slightly left-leaning moderate?

This isn't the language of a movement aimed at restoring sane political debate and constructive politics. Their vision was less about removing labels and bringing people from the far left and far right together to work towards a better United States. It was more about just getting moderate/centrist (ie: non-extreme) politicians elected. 

Color me disappointed.

Let me clarify - I think a lot of people in the room were in agreement that dialog has gotten out of hand. Hell, dialog is almost non-existent. I think the No Labels campaign has a lot of potential. By its title and mission - people from the extremes may be drawn to the prospect and really make it what it's suppose to be. But I fear it's just going to rally Democrats and form a counter-Tea Party movement.

Maybe not.

2 Intelligent Comment(s):

Michael said...

I'm sorry to hear that "No Labels" isn't non-partisan after all. I think the backlash to the tea party movement has cured my distate of extremists. After all, isn't it good to be an extremist for free speech like the ACLU? The truth lies in the middle of a lot of issues, but not all of them. The middle point between insane and sane is still half-crazy.

Jeremy Corbally-Hammond said...

Good point.

I think it's possible that 'No Labels' could do well. If it rallies enough people from all sides of political issues and creates a new constructive dialog - it could be great. If it just rallies moderate leftists, I doubt much will change.

This is actually a good reason for us (two people who disagree in a lot of ways but are capable of communicating civilly and finding common ground)to hijack the movement and make it what it ought to be.

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