Within a week after its official launch, the No Labels movement—which I helped found—has accomplished a hitherto unimaginable feat: It has united a bitterly divided commentariat. Tribunes of left and right have issued issue denunciations and pronounced anathemas. Polarization, they say, is a wonderful thing, and those who would weaken it are at best deluded and naïve. Civility is a euphemism for the prissy repression of uninhibited democratic discourse, and the self-appointed speech police should butt out. Parties exist for a reason, and if right now that reason is to beat each other’s brains out, who are we to object?
Starting from the poles and working in toward something approaching respectability, let me give the uninitiated reader a flavor of the bile No Labels has evoked. With his usual fine regard for fact, Rush Limbaugh said, “It’s so heartwarming to see a bunch of high-minded people out there on the left—you know, the No Labels crowd—coming out of the woodwork and paying the bail of the serial rapist Julian Assange.” He was referring to Michael Moore, who has nothing to do with No Labels and probably wouldn’t join if it were the last organization left on earth. Keith Olbermann says No Labels is “a bunch of fraudulent conservative Democrats pretending to be moderates and a bunch of fraudulent Republicans pretending to be independents.” I’ll let the reader decide whether this is a fair description of Newark, New Jersey’s Democratic Mayor Cory Booker or Los Angeles Democratic Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa or California’s Republican Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado. And that’s just a start. In a piece headlined “The Bipartisanship Racket,” Frank Rich, who evidently failed to read No Labels’s actual program, announced that there were no featured black speakers at the event. I hope nobody tells Mayor Booker or, for that matter, author former mayor Doug Palmer of Trenton and former Atlanta City Council Chair Lisa Borders that they’ve been drummed out of the African American corps. (Can’t the Times afford research assistants any more?)