Debilyn Molineaux’s Changing the Game report on the No Labels Conference.
No Labels Launch Event
December 13, 2011
New York , New York
No Labels Founding Leaders
- Nancy Jacobson, Democratic Strategic Advisor & Fundraiser and helped found Third Way
- Bill Galston, Senior Fellow in Governance Studies, Brookings Institute
- John Avlon, CNN Contributor & Senior Political Columnist, The Daily Beast, former speechwriter for Mayor Rudy Guiliani
- Mark McKinnon, Republican Strategist & Media Advisor
No Labels “Who We Are”
(paraphrased, complete writing in No Labels Packet attachment)
No Labels encourages leaders to put labels aside in an effort to seek common sense solutions to our nations problems. No Labels is not a centrist, conservative or liberal movement. In fact, No Labels is not about ideology; it is about an attitude and new approach. We do not ask any leader to give up their label, merely put it aside—in order to work together and find practical solutions to our nations problems. (continues…)
No Labels is a simple and clear unifying idea whose time has come. It is not a political party and does not have an issues platform. We represent a new voice for our citizens. As the movement expands there may be issues that the movement embraces and advocates but we will not prescribe what they will be in our formation and launch.
No Labels 2011 Goals
(partial & paraphrased, full list included in No Labels Packet attachment)
- Organize all 435 congressional districts with local leaders
- Hold monthly meet-ups in all 435 congressional districts to discuss key issues
- Organize No Labels chapters on 150 campuses
- Host Town Halls in 10 key states where Independents can vote in primaries
- Establish a PAC that can operate in the 2012 primary races of members who are challenged by the ideological extremes of either party
- Monitor and track the members of all members of congress to ensure they are not playing hyper-partisan games
- Recruit 1,000,000 Citizen Leaders to be part of No Labels effort
Event Overview and Review
Event Agenda for their launch is attached. Please note that Senator Joe Lieberman and hip-hop artist AKON are listed, but did not attend.
The Problem was eloquently described. Over and over again. The solutions were scarce or obscure in response to the description of The Problem. Below is the consolidated message by the media personalities, current and outgoing elected officials in the areas of “Why No Labels”, “Media” & “Electoral Reform” on The Problem.
We seek solutions. We need to be able to talk to one another to find common ground. We need support from the public, the voters and the contributors to be able to do our work more effectively. We don’t want to be punished for doing what we know to be right. We don’t want to have to make deals we know are wrong, so we can get to do what is right. Principled compromise is not selling out our principles, it is the way America works. Help us to do what is right.
What was good
- Passion was present. From the participants, volunteers, organizers and presenters there was a palpable passion in the room to DO SOMETHING about the state of our political system.
- The presence of elected officials participation provided the appearance of authority.
- The elected officials asked for support for reaching out, being civil, and collaborating. The current culture punishes them for this behavior.
- There were national media people in attendance, which afforded the launch national media attention
- There was an “ask” made to the participants, one time, just before lunch.
- To hold our elected officials accountable to the three Cs; Cooperate with others; seek Common ground and be Civil
- And when our elected officials perform with these ideals, reward them with a phone call, a thank you, a contribution.
- Let them know we are watching and holding them accountable (see No Labels packet for What We Expect from Congressional Members)
- Schedule meet-ups in each Congressional District on the 13th of each month. These are to be self-organized. (This idea was first surfaced in Voice of the People, by Jim Turner & Lawry Chickering)
- Quality & quantity of speakers (double edged sword)
- Obviously well funded, nice packet of materials (see No Labels Packet attachment)
- Stories and input from participants in the room and online was inserted between speakers, felt inclusive in morning sessions (missing in afternoon)
- Live streaming on web
10. Great registration process, media center, wi-fi availability etc.
11. Theme song by hip-hop artist, AKON
What was missing
- There was no defined sense of leadership. On one hand, there is a committee of 4 people who founded the organization, yet they told us it was our movement. (Self-organizing, facilitated leadership?) Then we spent the day listening to other people talk at us. (Heroic leadership, they have the answers) What is supposed to happen with the information? Without clear leadership, confusion reigned.
- The National Anthem is NOT America the Beautiful. Everyone stood up as if they didn’t know!!!
- There is not a defined sense of what to do next, although it can be ferreted out, as I did above from my notes. I talked with several people who didn’t know what steps to take to participate at the end of the day.
- Sense of continuing connection among the participants, especially later in the day. Without asking for commitments from participants, potential to be a one-day event only.
- There was not an effective afternoon program to forward the agenda.
- The initiating organizers were not visible to me after their initial morning appearance (John Avlon exception, perhaps they were in other break-outs and then in other parts of the main room?)
- Energy was drained after lunch…about 300 people made it to the end of the day.
- There was no local organizing, connecting or space to do so. The “break-out session” during lunch was anemic and didn’t allow for local meetings or follow up.
- Overall, there were too many speakers and speeches, not enough local grouping to organize and make plans.
- Primaried, v., to be defeated in a primary election by a candidate who is from the extreme of your party. Especially as applied to a moderate incumbent.
- Principled compromise
- Common Ground
I believe the No Label founders are sincere in their efforts to move our country forward, past hyper-partisanship towards solutions. There were many references to the not-so-distant past when politicians would debate and fight during the day, yet dine together or be collegial after work. When the focus was on serving the American people instead of the party agenda and winning meant doing the right thing instead of blocking the other side.
Without slipping into nostalgia, the speakers of the day tapped into the frustration and hope of the people who traveled to New York and told their stories. They asked for help and assistance. Everyone admitted they don’t have the answers by themselves.
The No Labels main solution was simple. Mobilize everyone who would prefer solutions to stonewalling. Ask them/us to support elected officials who collaborate, find common ground and act with civility with votes, phone calls, meetings and money. Be visible. Meet-up with each other so no one feels alone. The challenge is that those in attendance did not hear this solution or call to action. I suspect most everyone in the room is already politically active and meeting with people, so there was a sense of “I’m already doing my part” and “this isn’t the solution or silver bullet we want.”
What gave great energy to the Tea Party was the Tea Party message spoke to those who had never been active before. It caused them to set aside their lives and move together to make their voices heard. If the No Labels movement is taken up by the inactive or disenfranchised who want political civility and are willing to stand for it, then No Labels has a chance of going viral. Our support at this point is crucial. Sitting back to see if they are successful will insure the failure. Even with the support of the existing transpartisan and bridge building community, success is not assured.
Other proposed solutions were more ornery. Reform our electoral process through “fair” redistricting and get a handle on money in politics. The challenge of hyper-partisan media was left as an unsolvable problem. (Although I might suggest that if we all stopped watching, it would go away.)
What would make No Labels great?
- Participation and support by existing bridge building organizations, groups and individuals.
- Broad-based support from social, political, and pragmatic groups or people who want solutions in government
- Obvious, recognizable and effective leadership style
- Guidelines for meet-ups to download, if wanted by local organizers (Changing the Game ready to provide this and reaching out to No Labels)
- Provide space to connect. This may be happening online, in which case invitations to the website need to be sent out OFTEN, to remind people to connect.
- Person-Person connections through conference calls, organization sponsored meet-ups to continue building of the movement in key areas
- Transparency of finances rumored $1,000,000 raised to date. Known contributors are: Loews Corp. co-chair Andrew Tisch, Panera Bread founder Ron Shaich, and ex-Facebook executive Dave Morin. Amounts contributed are undisclosed.
- System of measurement and broadcast to members towards stated goals. (may be in works, not clear)
I will host a “meet-up” on January 13th in Portland and have been contacted by Sue Castner, who is the Oregon organizer. She is politically connected in Oregon with U.S. Senator Wyden and Governor-elect Kitzhaber.
Transforming our political culture is my current life work. I want to believe this is the tipping point and No Labels is part of the trend. I am afraid of believing and being disappointed. I received email warnings from Joseph McCormick and Robert Steele. Their warnings stays in my head while I attempt to stay open minded.