Press "Enter" to skip to content

No Labels wanted a centrist ticket. Polarization, Trump stood in the way.

For
decades
now,
various
politicians
have
sought
to
tap
into
and
energize
what
they
see
as
a
moderate
middle
of
the
electorate
into
a
viable
political
movement.
For
decades,
those
efforts
have
come
to
naught.
The
latest
evidence
came
a
few
days
ago
after
No
Labels

formed
as
a
bipartisan,
centrist
organization


gave
up
its
search

to
field
a
presidential
ticket
for
2024.

The
quest
by
No
Labels
was
premised
in
part
on
the
idea
that
many
Americans
are
dissatisfied
with
having
to
choose
between

President
Biden

and
former
president

Donald
Trump
,
the
two
oldest
candidates
ever
to
run
for
president
and,
combined,
the
least
popular.
In
that
environment,
some
thought
there
was
an
opening
for
an
independent
alternative,
and
some
polls
lent
credence
to
the
idea.

The
effort,
however,
was
doomed
almost
from
the
start
by
perceptions
that
a
No
Labels
ticket
would
become
a
spoiler,
with
no
chance
of
winning
the
election
and
every
chance
of
helping
to
reelect
Trump.
Leaders
of
the
organization
vowed
that
this
was
not
their
goal.
To
the
contrary,
they
said
they
wanted
to
do
nothing
to
help
the
former
president.
Still,
perceptions
stuck,
and
resistance
mounted.

The
group
explored
candidacies
with
politicians
from
both
parties,
among
them
Sen.
Joe
Manchin
III
(D-W.Va.),
one
of
the
country’s
leading
voices
on
behalf
of
bipartisanship
who
has
often
quarreled
with
members
of
his
party;
former
two-term
Maryland
governor
Larry
Hogan,
a
Republican
who
has
said
he
will
not
vote
for
Trump
and
is
now
running
for
the
Senate;
and
former
New
Jersey
governor

Chris
Christie
,
a
one-time
Trump
supporter
who
failed
in
his
effort
to
bring
down
Trump
in
the
Republican
primaries.

All
three
decided
to
pass
up
the
opportunity
to
mount
a
third-party
challenge,
presumably
concluding
there
was
no
viable
path
to
victory.
They
were
not
the
first
in
recent
years
to
come
to
that
conclusion.
Former
New
York
mayor
Mike
Bloomberg,
who
has
been
a
Democrat,
a
Republican
and
an
independent
over
his
political
career,
did
extensive
research
on
prospects
for
a
third-party
run.
He
determined
he
couldn’t
win
that
way.
In
2020,
he

ran
in
the
Democratic
primaries
,
losing
that
bid
to
Biden.

The
concept
of
a
moderate
middle
of
the
electorate
has
long
existed.
Some
politicians
have
called
it
a
“sensible
center”
or
a
“radical
middle,”
as
if
it
were
some
kind
of
sleeping
giant
within
the
electorate
just
waiting
to
be
awakened
by
the
right
idea
or
a
charismatic
leader.

Ross
Perot
seemed
to
fit
that
when
he
ran
in
1992.
His
quirky
personality,
that
of
a
non-politician
and
outsider,
combined
with
a
focus
on
budget
deficits
and
anti-free
trade
agreements
(remember

his
“giant
sucking
sound”

description
of
trade
with
Mexico?)
proved
compelling
to
many
voters.
At
one
point
he
led
the
polls.
In
the
end,
he
captured
19
percent
of
the
national
vote

and
more
than
25
percent
in
eight
states.
But
he
did
not
capture
a
single
state.

Later,
he
sought
to
turn
that
campaign
into
a
more
sustaining
movement.
He
ran
again
in
1996,
but
by
then,
his
following
had
fractured,
its
ideological
cohesion
never
having
been
that
strong.
He
won
just
8
percent
of
the
vote
nationally
and
did
not
win
more
than
15
percent
in
any
state.

Since
then,
American
politics
has
become
more
and
more
polarized
and
voting
patterns
have
become
more
and
more
tribal.
Whatever
people
call
themselves
ideologically,
party
allegiance
has
generally
dictated
voting
behavior.

One
example
of
that
is
the
now
almost
rigid
pattern
of
states
backing
presidential
nominees
and
Senate
candidates
of
the
same
party,
after
years
of
split-ticket
voting
in
those
races.
Red
states
have
become
redder,
blue
states
have
become
bluer,
leading
to
recent
elections
in
which
just
six
or
seven
states
are
competitive
presidentially.

American
voters
are
not
just
polarized

they
have
grown
further
apart
ideologically.
In
1994,
according
to
Gallup
surveys,
25
percent
of
Democrats
identified
themselves
as
liberal,
equal
to
the
percentage
who
called
themselves
conservative.
By
2021,
the
percentage
of
liberals
had
doubled
to
50
percent
of
Democrats
identified
as
liberal
while
the
percentage
of
conservatives
was
cut
in
half
to
12
percent.

The
pattern
is
similar,
if
in
the
opposite
direction,
in
the
Republican
Party.
In
1994,
58
percent
of
Republicans
described
themselves
as
conservative.
By
2021,
that
had
risen
to
74
percent.
Moderates
declined
from
33
percent
to
22
percent,
while
liberals
remained
in
single
digits
throughout.

The
year
1994
is
remembered
as
the
election
in
which
Republicans
captured
the
House
for
the
first
time
in
four
decades,
and
also
as
a
time
of
acceleration
toward
a
more
divided
political
environment.
From
Bill
Clinton
forward,
presidents
have
become

more
and
more
polarizing

in
how
they
are
seen
by
those
in
their
own
party
and
those
in
the
other
party.

Among
independents,
there
has
been
little
change
in
how
they
see
themselves
ideologically
over
that
same
period
since
1994.
As
of
2021,
48
percent
called
themselves
moderate,
30
percent
said
they
were
conservative
and
20
percent
said
they
were
liberal.

Those
numbers
among
independents
have
helped
to
feed
the
idea
of
a
potential
block
of
moderate
voters
looking
for
something
different.
And
surveys
suggest
that
significant
numbers
of
Americans
hunger
for
more
cross-party
cooperation
(although
Republicans
are
more
resistant
to
that
than
Democrats).

But
many
who
call
themselves
independent
actually
lean
toward
one
party
or
the
other
and
vote
loyally
as
a
result

81
percent,
according
to
a
2019

Pew
Research

study.
As
the
study
said,
“Independents
often
are
portrayed
as
political
free
agents
with
the
potential
to
alleviate
the
nation’s
rigid
partisan
divisions.
Yet
the
reality
is
that
most
independents
are
not
all
that
‘independent’
politically.”

That
same
study
also
underscored
the
lack
of
coherence
among
true
independents.
Fewer
than
10
percent
of
Americans
were
labeled
as
fully
independent,
according
to
Pew,
and
this
group
“has
no
partisan
leaning.”
Beyond
that,
they
were
seen
as
less
engaged
politically

less
likely
to
be
registered
to
vote
and
less
likely
to
vote
if
registered.

That
is
hardly
a
broad
or
stable
foundation
upon
which
to
build
a
centrist
movement.
For
all
the
hunger
for
a
better
kind
of
politics,
public
attitudes
suggest
the
contrary.
A

2022
Pew
study

found
increasingly
negative
views
about
those
in
an
opposing
party.
More
than
7
in
10
Republicans
and
more
than
6
in
10
Democrats
said
those
in
the
other
party
were
immoral
and
dishonest.
These
findings
were
significantly
higher
than
in
a
study
six
years
earlier.

The
choice
between
Biden
and
Trump
could
prompt
some
voters
to
vote
for
one
of
the
independent
candidates
running
for
president.
And
they
could
do
what
some
of
those
opposed
to
the
No
Labels
effort
fear,
by
swinging
the
election
results.
Both
the
Biden
and
Trump
campaigns
are
concerned
about
the
candidacy
of

Robert
F.
Kennedy
Jr.

and
are
doing
what
they
can
to
insulate
their
candidate
from
the
impact
of
his
possible
appeal.

No
one
knows
today
how
much
support
the
independent
candidates,
who
also
include
Green
Party
candidate

Jill
Stein

and
scholar
Cornel
West,
will
siphon
from
Biden
and
Trump.
Meanwhile,
the
leaders
of
No
Labels
have
expressed
their
commitment
to
building
a
centrist
movement.

But
this
is
likely
not
the
time,
as
the
attitudes
from
that
2022
Pew
study
help
to
explain
the
reality
of
the
current
political
environment:
that
of
a
divided,
unhappy
and
fearful
electorate
heading
toward
a
November
election
in
which
the
stakes
could
hardly
be
higher.

We use cookies to ensure that we provide you with the best experience. If you continue using our website, we will assume that you are happy about that.
Optimized by Optimole