'No Labels': What's the middle?
Millions of Americans are disgusted by the bitter Washington deadlock caused by Tea Party Republicans who repeatedly block government processes, even forcing government shutdowns. No wonder huge numbers of adults ignore politics and don't vote.
An attempt to break this impasse is led by a citizen group called "No Labels," which advocates middle-of-the-road compromises between the two major parties. Top leaders of this effort are moderate Democrat Joe Manchin from West Virginia and liberal Republican Jon Huntsman from Utah.
The group just published a full-page New York Times ad urging the warring sides to build "consensus around common goals." During tonight's State of the Union address, it said, "dozens of Democrats and Republicans will be wearing orange No Labels problem-solving pins ... to signal their support for creating a national strategic agenda."
The organization released a book outlining a four-part middle-of-the-road vision: create 25 million U.S. jobs in the next decade, balance the federal budget by 2030, make America energy-independent by 2035, and make Social Security and Medicare secure for another 75 years.
Nobody could argue with any of those noble goals. And nobody doubts the need to end vicious stalemates in Washington. But there's a problem with middle-of-the-roadism, as follows:
Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. pointed out that finding common ground between the two parties assumes that each side is equally extreme -- but, in reality, Tea Party Republicans have veered far, far to the right of America's mainstream, while Democrats generally take moderate stands.
"When a president of the United States is attacked simultaneously as an 'extreme liberal liar' and a 'Nazi,' there is a sick irrationality at work in our discourse," he wrote in 2010 as No Labels steamrolled.
Dionne said compromisers shouldn't make a "false equivalence between our current 'left' and our current 'right.' The truth is that the American right is much farther from anything that can fairly be described as 'the center' than is the left. Indeed, there is no 'far left' to speak of anymore."
He said Americans must "reject a cult of the center that defines as good anything that can be called bipartisan."
Right-wing extremism has driven many honorable Republicans out of their party. Tea Party zealots who remain seem rigidly opposed to any compromise. We doubt that the No Labels group led by Sen. Manchin and thoughtful Republican Huntsman will have much luck at persuading them to move back to the middle. However, we wish them success.