Election 2012: No Labels
Published: Sunday, October 14, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
No Labels is the new political, bipartisan organization on campus. It is a sub-chapter of a national organization that is based in Washington whose major focus is getting Congress to work together. No Labels strives to limit the effects of partisanship by attacking polarization and making congressmen reach across the aisle.
No Labels strives to answer a very real problem that is affecting this country: polarization. Polarization, generally speaking, is the sharp division of a population or group into opposing factions. In practice, these opposing factions are the extremists of either party. These passionate few define the policy of the party as a whole. These are the people who come out and vote in the primaries, and these are the people incumbents from both parties have to fear. If incumbents do not cater to their demands, a candidate emerges who will, and that incumbent is beaten in his or her primary. When polarization becomes rampant and extremists hold power, moderate voices lose traction and parties are less inclined to compromise.
Extensive polarization defeats the purpose of political parties in general. The reason a dual party system is so successful is that those in power always have a loyal opposition. This ensures that policy never gets too extreme because the opposing side is always there, ready to step in if the voters are not satisfied. Each side compromises to provide effective legislation that satisfies voters. At least, that is how things are supposed to go.
In today’s political climate, those who compromise are vetted in their own party. For example, Senator Olympia Snowe (R) did not seek re-election for her next term, citing polarization as the main reason. In a statement, she elaborated, “Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term.” Snowe was known for regularly voting against her Republican colleagues as the “last moderate” in Congress. These instances support ineffectual, rigid partisan voting. It can be seen from the past presidential term that polarization is negatively affecting Congress.
One manifestation of polarization is the recent use of the filibuster. Originally enacted to prevent the Senate majority from steamrolling the minority, the filibuster was used rarely and with great cause. What a filibuster effectively does is stall voting on a bill. As long as a senator was on the floor, the bill could not be moved forward until a supermajority of 60 members voted to end the debate. Filibusters took a great amount of time and were used very rarely. This is no longer the case. In its first 50 years of existence, the filibuster was used 35 times. In the past two years, it was used over 100 times. This is a measure by the minority party—the Republicans in this case—to make sure none of the President’s legislation gets voted on, severely limiting his effectiveness in office.
Congress has been broken by polarization, and candidates are increasingly less willing to reach across the aisle. No Labels is a group of Republicans, Democrats, and independents who are not giving up their labels. They are simply putting them aside to make this country work, which will happen if Congress is able to produce pragmatic and effective legislation.
No Labels is the voice of the vast majority. The general voting public is not on either extreme. These people in the middle feel disenfranchised from politics because they do not feel either party meets their needs. No Labels aims to be the moderate voice to get people involved and provide a support system for moderate candidates that they currently do not have. No Labels supports candidates, from either party, that show a history or willingness of working with the opposing party to produce bipartisan legislation. No Labels does not seek to be a political party itself—just to limit polarization and endorse pragmatic and effective leaders.
No Labels has a 12-step plan to “Make Congress Work.” Parts of this plan are legislation, other parts are simple measures to break gridlock and facilitate discussion. Some such measures are as easy as bipartisan seating, but others require legislation such as the No Labels plan for filibuster reform, or “No budget, no pay,” which would force accountability of Congress to produce a timely budget.
No Labels, paradoxically, is the label for the vast moderate majority. It is the group people can turn to if they want to see pragmatic and effective legislation that helps end gridlock in Congress. Many members of the Boston College community strive to work with organizations to facilitate discussion on a local level, provide political awareness, and bring people together. No Labels is a group of Republicans, Democrats, and independents. No Labels is you.