Civility, Brutality and the Politics of the Two-Party State

This week's column at CAIVN discusses the No Labels launch and the reaction from the dead-enders of the duopoly parties:
 . . . Just as Independents are marginalized by Democratic-Republican party politics even though they constitute a significant proportion of the electorate, our nation’s political discourse is dominated by conservatives and liberals, though over one-third of Americans consider themselves moderates.  However, despite persistent speculation that No Labels will provide the organizational infrastructure for an Independent presidential candidate in 2012, the organization’s leadership has consistently stated that it does not aim to build an Independent alternative to the Democratic and Republican parties, but rather seeks to galvanize a movement to “change the culture in Washington” by organizing support for politicians who “put their labels aside and work across the aisle to solve problems.” . . .

Ironically, the group has already succeeded in uniting partisan Democrats and Republicans in opposition to their effort to build a movement of moderates. . . . In response to the organization’s launch, one of the most common criticisms leveled by Republicans and Democrats alike is that No Labels is “unserious.”  At the influential Republican website Red State, CNN contributor Erick Erickson summed up his take on the group under the title “An Unserious Circle of Smug Seriousness.”  At Salon, the self-described “typical effete coastal liberal elitist” Alex Pareene submitted a piece on “The Unseriousness of No Labels.”  Of course, such a reaction was only to be expected, as this is the “culture” that No Labels seeks to transform.  In the puerile commentaries of so many Republicans and Democrats, to be “serious” is to be a slave to some faction of the ruling two-party state, and to show requisite concern for the pet issues of that party’s most rabid partisans and vocal activists. . . .
Read the rest.  It goes without saying that No Labels will only be as successful as its grassroots organization.  Being in NYC, and having a bit of time on Monday, I was able to swing by the launch event for a little while.  By my count there were probably around 1000 people in attendance from across the country.  Among them were a number of folks from Independent Voting and the network of centrist/moderate/independent bloggers Solomon Kleinsmith has dubbed the Centersphere.  In the end, the big names on stage at the event – which was newsworthy if only for the fact that it explicitly included Democrats, Republicans and Independents – are helpful for capturing the attention of the corporate media, but it is the organizing work of individuals on the ground across the country that makes the difference between success and failure for any nascent political movement.  Perhaps the biggest challenge for those within the No Labels movement will be to live up to the organization's name.  A commenter at CAIVN writes:
How can you call your organization "No Labels" when more than half of your members are all registered D or R to begin with? . . . If they wanted to break a few paradigms, it would have been better to require a pledge to change their party affiliations to independent or DTS [decline-to-state]. Think of the effect THAT would have. 
Coincidentally, I had been planning a future post on the group with this precise focus.  If a group like No Labels does nothing more than strengthen the two-party state, if it cannot empower independents to elect independents, then it will have been nothing more than a tool of that which it claims to oppose.  When Democrats and Republicans put their differences aside to work together, we get unending wars at home and abroad, bailouts and get-out-of-jail-free cards for the criminal corporate-political class, all-out assaults on rights, liberties and the rule of law etc.  What good is civility in politics if it does nothing more than put a happy face on the brutality of accepted policy?

Update: Solomon, who has been active within the group for a few months, has begun a series of posts critically reflecting on the launch.  He writes: "I think it is appropriate to start a series of posts breaking down what we’ve seen from No Labels so far by taking a bitter pill of honesty. While I think they’re off to a good start, they have made what appear to me (and others) as mistakes."

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