The DC-based group No Labels wants to bridge the growing gap between Republicans and Democrats, a lofty goal but one that the Search for Common Ground praised at its Thursday night awards ceremony.
Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., and Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., were on hand at the National Geographic Museum to accept the award. A couple of hundred people crowded into the museum’s auditorium for the ceremony.
Before joining the Senate in 2010, Manchin was the governor of the Mountain State. Manchin, now a co-chairman of No Labels, said he had hoped to bring the common-sense solutions he worked on there to the Senate.
“I found out common sense wasn’t so common here,” he said to laughs.
No Labels was founded three years ago to create a platform where political reform could be encouraged without the stigma of party labels. The organization now counts nearly 90 members of Congress as part of its movement.
Jenkins received the award in place of former Utah GOP Gov. Jon Huntsman, who co-chairs No Labels along with Manchin. Huntsman was unable to attend the event but said in a prerecorded video that reaching across the aisle has never been harder. He should know, as he was criticized mercilessly within his party for taking a position as ambassador to China in the first years of the Obama administration.
“It’s a mighty important undertaking,” he said. “We have the most dysfunctional Congress in the history of our country.”
Receiving the award is a “major boost” for the group, Huntsman added.
Jenkins echoed Huntsman, explaining that a few decades ago, most members of Congress and their families lived full time in the District, often rubbing elbows with other members both inside and outside work.
“Those days are long gone,” she said. “The whole dynamic has changed.”
The common ground of seeing each other at church or sending their children to the same schools doesn’t exist anymore, Jenkins said, and the environment in the District has only turned more toxic.
“It’s easier to raise money when we’re demonizing each other,” she said.
Jenkins also gave a shoutout to Reps. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., and Sam Farr, D-Calif., who attended the event.
Search for Common Ground is an international organization dedicated to resolving conflict, and each year it honors people and organizations that share its goal of putting understanding and collaboration above dispute and partisanship.
No Labels was just one of five honorees at this year’s ceremony. Musical group Sweet Honey in the Rock; Livia Leu Agosti, Switzerland’s former ambassador to Iran; influential teacher John Hunter and Johann Olav Koss, the founder of Right to Play, were also honored.