Faithful readers of this paper’s Sunday edition might have noticed that my colleague Lynn Schmidt and I — like the schist between liberals and conservatives in the nation generally today — might well be the Siskel and Ebert of the Editorial Board. Although we agree on some basic political tenants, particularly what a catastrophe a second Donald Trump presidency would be, our basic philosophies are often at different ends of the spectrum, as our columns over the last couple of years have reflected. It’s this yin and yang of differing opinions that makes our democracy flourish.
Lynn favors smaller government, for example, while I think the size of government is less important than making sure the existing agencies have the funds to hire and train employees and keep their technology current. Lynn disapproved of President Biden’s plan for student debt relief, while I favored it for those who never completed their degrees, or those on a fixed income — with the stipulation of a smaller means-test. There’s more.
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Considering our different philosophies, it should come as no surprise that we disagree on the “No Labels” political movement that is considering offering a third candidate for the 2024 presidential bid. Lynn has written in support of that movement, calling it an “insurance policy” against what she considers two unfit major-party candidates.
I’d like to take this opportunity to politely push back: I see No Labels as a potential spoiler, likely to dilute the Democratic voting pool and put Trump back in office.
This terrifying proposition would be exactly the opposite of the group’s stated goals. But there are many indications it could happen.
Thus far, No Labels has not named an actual candidate, and they have said they might not. However, since right-leaning Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is one of their more prominent supporters, it would not be a surprise that he became their candidate, especially since he has now announced that he will not seek reelection to the Senate.
Various news sources called Manchin a “moderate” or “centrist” Democrat when he made his retirement announcement. I think not. Considering his obstructionist actions regarding Democratic priorities over the last few years, he would be the last person I’d vote for, were I inclined to abandon President Biden. Also, by continuing to support the use of fossil fuels, Manchin appears to have been representing his own interests rather than those of his constituents, much less the common good.
Beyond that, it’s just mathematically illogical to believe that by dividing the political whole, we are not reducing the stability of the entire pie.
Take Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 presidential race. I don’t know which of the multitude of her problems during the campaign she would blame, but one doesn’t have to be a political analyst to recognize the prejudices she faced. First, she was a woman, one many viewed as too pushy when she championed national health insurance during her husband’s presidency. Then, during her campaign, she used the word “deplorables” to describe some of Trump’s supporters, which is still rankling many of them today.
So the hair literally stood up on my arms when then-FBI Director James Comey announced he was initiating a new investigation into Clinton’s home email server less than a week before the presidential election. That’s the sort of thing that divides an already-wobbly base.
I get the same eerie feeling about the No Labels contingent.
No Labels says that if even if they get on the ballots in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and name a candidate, they will withdraw from the race if it appears their presence will help Trump. When asked how they will determine that, their answer is that their polling will tell them.
I don’t trust polls or statistics in general. I’d rather discuss the possibilities.
Suppose a No Labels candidate is named, some voters decide this is their guy, but then the group, after their polling, removes their platform from consideration? Where do those voters go? If they lean Republican, will they switch back to a vindictive Trump, ignoring his baggage? Will Democratic-leaning voters stick with or switch to President Biden despite their earlier concerns? How many will decide not to vote at all? No poll can predict that.
Our democracy is in danger of extinction. To save it we must not divide it any further. Just say no to No Labels.
Janet Y. Jackson is a Post-Dispatch columnist and Editorial Board member.