When Newtown resident Pat Oliver read about the No Labels inaugural presentation in Washington, D.C., last December, she was intrigued. “There were national political activists whom I admire from both the Republican and Democratic parties involved. I'm kind of a news junkie. I love to know what's going on, and this really interested me,” said Ms Oliver.
A SUNY Albany graduate with degrees in political science and economics, and a master's from Southern Connecticut State University in statistics and research, Ms Oliver said she is tired of seeing the political debate become “more and more strangled by the extremes in each party. Very often, they spin the truth or find the numbers to back their extreme positions. It has become difficult to believe any information that is put out,” she said.
She pursued finding out more about the No Labels nonprofit organization, and liked what she saw. “I went to a meeting in Westport early this past spring, and they asked if people wanted to be state coordinators, so I volunteered,” she said.
No Labels was founded by citizen leaders and high-profile leaders volunteering to “create a new voice for the majority of Americans who go unheard in our current political system,” according to information at nolabels.org. Those leaders include people such as Mark McKinnon, a strategist for President George W. Bush and Senator John McCain and other political candidates; Nancy Jacobson a strategic advisor for the Clintons, Al Gore, and Gary Hart; CNN contributor and senior political columnist for The Daily Beast John Avlon; and David Frum, editor of the website FrumForum.com.
“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,” reads the No Label home web page statement. As of June 21, the number of supporters that had signed the No Labels Declaration online, asking leaders to set aside their labels, numbered 64,789.
“This group was formed to be able to give space and cover for politicians who are willing to compromise,” said Ms Oliver. By putting aside labels such as “Republican” or “Democrat,” supporters of No Labels believe that wise answers to critical issues in the country can be found.
“There are good ideas everywhere, but you have to be able to push them forward,” she said. Politicians in both parties pay a financial price and a political price for moving to center from the party's stances, Ms Oliver said. “No Labels' idea is to support those politicians who want to compromise. Legislators are intimidated by the organized efforts of the extremes of each political party, as it is,” she said, “because those parties can quickly mount an e-mail campaign. No Labels wants to be the counterbalance.”
The No Labels movement is “committed to helping our nation remain true to these values that we all profess in an environment which encourages fact-based discussions,” states information at the website. “We have shared values and common purpose. The times are challenging and they call for national renewal. We don't need labels; we need leaders, everywhere, throughout society, who will discuss issues based upon their merits,” reads a portion of the No Labels Statement of Purpose.
As one of several state coordinators, said Ms Oliver, she is tasked with introducing the public to No Labels and its mission. “That is, to reward politicians for compromise — which has become a dirty word — and reward civility and dialogue with integrity. This is not a political party,” stressed Ms Oliver. “It does not support individual politicians, but rather congratulates politicians who act for the public good, not for their party,” she said.
No Labels wants to create an e-mail bank that is able to mobilize and show support for compromise as quickly as those e-mail blasts sent out by extreme Republican, Independent, or Democratic groups. “We want to show politicians that they do have public support if they take a position that is unpopular with their own party, but which shows a desire to compromise and find a real solution,” Ms Oliver said.
The big drive by No Labels right now, she said, is the Stay On The Floor letter campaign, demanding that Congress stay in session until a solution to fix the debt ceiling is agreed upon. “We're insisting ‘no more vacations' until Congress reaches a solution,” said Ms Oliver. “This is of enormous importance because of the danger it presents to the country's bond ratings. We're saying, ‘Find a way that's good for America and Americans,' in resolving this,” Ms Oliver said.
The House is scheduled to go on recess from June 27 to July 5; and again from July 18 to July 22. The Senate is scheduled to go on recess from July 4 to 8. The Senate and House are scheduled to go on recess for 12 days of weekends between now and August 2, said Ms Oliver. “These are the dates as they technically classify them,” she said, and added, “If you count the weekends before and after, they would be longer recesses.”
Ms Oliver fears that if a resolution to the debt ceiling issue is not found by August 2, “Essentially, the US is defaulting on our debt. It is financed by other nations. If investors lose faith in the United States, our debt could spiral even further out of control. This is not the time for Congress to go out and play,” she stressed.
There are those, said Ms Oliver, who do not understand economics and do not believe that the debt will get out of control. “The stakes are just too high to gamble. You don't want to trifle with the trust and faith [other countries have in the United States and the US currency. Trust and faith] is what has propelled the US to success,” she said.
The extreme Republican faction is holding out for enormous cuts to settle the debt ceiling problem. The extreme Democratic view, said Ms Oliver, is that no entitlements — Social Security and Medicaid — be touched and that taxes on the rich must be raised. “They are so determined, both sides, that they are willing to risk default. There has to be something in the middle, but there is so much heat from the extremes in both parties that it is difficult for those [politicians] in the middle to come to a decision,” she said.
If legislators hear only from the extreme fringes of each major political party, they do not know there are many people who support compromise. “You don't always get what you want; that's what government and America is about,”
Ms Oliver said. “I think digging your heels in — on either side — is not going to work. That's why I support No Labels.” Politicians must be comfortable with compromise, reasonable debate, and solutions that best suit the majority of Americans, with no regard to political affiliations, she said.
No Labels hopes to hold a convention in 2012 featuring politicians from all parties who are willing to compromise, to drop their “labels” and come to debate. “We want to see what positions come out of those debates by reasonable people,” said Ms Oliver, who will attend a national meeting of coordinators for No Labels in Washington, D.C., in July.
As a means to reach legislators in the numbers needed to show support for compromise, and with a voice that can be heard above the clamor of traditional parties and extremists, Ms Oliver is hopeful that No Labels can be successful.
To find out more about No Labels and the Stay On The Floor letter campaign, visit nolabels.org.
Read more: http://newtownbee.com/News/News/2011/06-June/2011-06-30__12-43-18/New+National+Group+Seeks+To+Bring+Political+Parties+To+Compromise