IN A HYPER−PARTISAN POLITICAL ERA, NO LABELS AIMS TO TRANSCEND THE BICKERING

The Tufts Daily

If the recent coverage of the political back and forth surrounding the upcoming presidential election is any indication, it seems the United States is neatly and divisively split between Democrats and Republicans. However, Tufts' No Labels chapter attempts to provide a breath of fresh air for those students whose political views don't fall so easily into line.

No Labels, a nonprofit organization started in 2010, seeks to reduce the bickering between political parties that takes a toll on government and to address the way the government goes about solving problems, according to senior Seth Rau, president of Tufts' No Labels chapter.

“The main goal of No Labels is to focus as a congressional reform organization, to promote twelve main reforms in congress to reduce political partisanship,” Rau said. “[We want] to try to find ways to get Democrats and Republicans to cooperate … and to work together on key issues to move America forward, to make sure that we're not pretty much having the Congress do nothing.”

The No Labels chapter on campus is only a small part of a nationwide movement.

“Tufts was the first university in the country to establish what's called a No Labels generation,” Rau said. “I think there are about thirty, forty chapters nationwide, and it's growing pretty quickly. … College students are only about five percent of the organization, and there's about two hundred thousand members across the country.”

Rau made it clear that the organization is not only for students with more moderate political sentiments, but for students with any combination of political views that want the American political system to function in a less hostile manner.

“We're competing for students who are politically active but don't yet necessarily feel like they need to be in campus Democrats or Republicans,” Rau said. “We're looking for students who are politically active and realize, ‘Hey, something in our system isn't working. Let's do something to actively change that.'”

Freshman Alex Dobyan said that he was attracted to the organization because he felt disconnected from the American political party system.

“I definitely feel, politically, that my own personal views on American politics are not really represented by either the Democratic or the Republican parties,” Dobyan said. “I may have some stances that fall in line with one or the other, but there's not a party platform on either side that I can really get behind.”

Dobyan also explained that, in his opinion, No Labels counteracts a trend of partisan extremism in America.

“Extremism is sort of becoming the way to get yourself on a ticket and get elected, which is something that I personally am pretty strongly opposed to,” he said.

Rau emphasized that the group is not advocating against political parties or any type of ideology, but rather supporting cooperation and communication between different political camps.

“I don't think we're really advocating for structural reform of the American political system, because if you look at it, the political system in this country, there's been partisanship since the foundation of American democracy, but it's only been recently in the last ten to twenty years that it has hindered the ability for anything to get done,” Rau said, adding that No Labels is not trying to abolish the two-party system, but rather trying to create an atmosphere in which the two parties feel comfortable working together.

According to Rau, both the No Labels national movement and the Tufts chapter have been heavily involved in supporting a top-two primary system, in which voters can vote for any candidate of any party during the primary, and the top two candidates are put into the general election.

Many supporters of such a system believe that the current primary system — in which each party has a closed primary that only registered members of that party can vote in — gives too much power to the radical fringes of the Democratic and Republican parties.

Another reform No Labels supports is commonly referred to as the No Budget, No Pay Act.

“[No Labels is] trying to pass a bill that says that if Congress doesn't pass a budget, they don't get paid,” senior Nathaniel Breg said.

According to Rau, Congress had not passed a budget in 1,014 days as of Feb. 6. Breg added that the alternative to resolving the budget is to pass stopgap measures, which enable the government to continue to be funded at the same rate as before.

“The problem with that is they only last like a month or two months or something, and if you ask anyone who actually ran a business or ran a government they'd say that that is a terrible way to run an organization,” Breg said.

“The budget is essential to this election, and the competing ideas on it are going to be one of the main debates,” Rau added, emphasizing the importance of a resolution that would hopefully motivate the creation of a clear budget for the United States.

Other measures that No Labels supports include mandatory off-the-record bipartisan meetings to increase dialogue across party lines, reforms that would limit the power of filibusters to be used to stall legislation, a mandate that presidential appointments should be confirmed or rejected within 90 days of nomination, congressional seating charts that encourage bipartisan interaction and a law that would prevent incumbent Senators and Congressmen from conducting negative campaigns against incumbents of other districts.

In the near future, Tufts' No Labels chapter plans to rally its members to support and get the word out about the No Budget, No Pay Act, intending to send students to United States Senator Scott Brown's (R-Mass.) office to demonstrate their support for the act. Brown, a Tufts alumnus (LA '81) is one of the 17 members of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which will be reviewing the bill, according to Rau.

“This is a chance for [Brown] to put his actions behind his words,” Rau said.

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