No Labels: A Reason For Hope

No Labels has been around for a while now, but with the addition of Jon Huntsman and Joe Manchin as co-chairs, they have re-branded themselves as group of problem solvers, with no agenda other than getting partisans to talk to one another. Joe Klein sees No Labels as a reason to be hopeful about political moderation:

On Jan. 10 I witnessed a public act of humility by 24 members of Congress, equally divided between Republicans and Democrats. The event was sponsored by a centrist group called No Labels. It was revolutionary not only in its humility but also in its agenda. There was no agenda. They simply agreed to start talking to one another. “I’ve been a member of the Senate for 1½ years, and I’ve never been asked to attend a bipartisan meeting,” said West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, who chairs the group with former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, a Republican. Furthermore, Manchin added, if you are caught seeking such meetings by your party leaders, you are accused of “guilt by conversation.”

One of the Republican Congressmen told me a similar story: He was attending a meeting of the House Republican caucus. One member stood up and suggested that they reach out to reasonable Democrats to see if there were any areas of commonality on entitlement reform. He was immediately shot down by John Boehner, who said, “It can’t work. It’ll never work.” (As if there’s so much that is working.) I spoke to a dozen of the elected Problem Solvers, as they call themselves, and each made the same point: the only bipartisan events they attended were chance one-on-one meetings in the darkened hallways of the Longworth Office Building. “Our colleagues think,” this Congressman added, “that we live on a knife’s edge of idealism and naiveté.”

For those of us who are not ideological warriors, No Labels is an exciting organization to follow. Many elected representatives have signed up already, and can act as ambassadors to reach across the isle.

They also have some ideas on how to change the incentive structure in congress, like “No Budget, No pay,” where, like the title suggests, lawmakers will not be paid until they pass a budget.

Previous No labels coverage here.

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