Why a Third-Party Candidacy From No Labels is Just What Americans Ordered

What most Americans are thinking right now is that the real threat to our democracy is a system that has given us a pathetic and disheartening rematch between Biden and Trump.
January 14, 2024
Boris Zhitkov/Getty Images

It’s nervous time in America. Most Americans are repulsed by the two deeply unpopular front-runners for the 2024 presidential race, incumbent Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump. In a Quinnipiac poll, 52 percent of registered voters said they would like additional candidates to enter the presidential race this year.

According to an Associated Press poll, 75 percent of Americans think Biden should not run for president again, and 69 percent think the same about Trump. Political independents now constitute the largest political bloc in the country, with an average of 43% of U.S. adults identifying this way in 2023, compared to 27% who identify as Republicans or Democrats.

In other words, the great majority of Americans from across the political spectrum hate the fact that the “system” is forcing them to choose between two candidates they abhor.

If ever there was an opportunity for a third-party candidacy to make some waves, this is the year.

Enter No Labels, a non-partisan group founded in 2010 that is working to give Americans what many of them say they crave—more choice.

No Labels, which bills itself as representing the “commonsense majority,” is the elephant in the room making the establishment nervous. Third parties have always made the establishment nervous, but these alternate parties have usually come from the fringes, like the Green party or the Libertarian party.

The difference with No Labels is that they’re in the reasonable center. They work within the establishment to find bipartisan voices who put solutions and compromise ahead of partisan politics. A notable example of their approach is the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan committee in the House of Representatives that emerged from No Labels’ efforts.

It’s precisely because there’s nothing fringe about No Labels that they pose a threat. They’re trying to redefine the mainstream of American politics to make it more productive and useful. When politics is defined by paralysis and partisan warfare, anything that smacks of “productive” and “useful” is by definition a threat. It’s not a coincidence that faith in Congress is at an all-time low.

No Labels is aiming to break that spiral of mistrust and cynicism.

It has already raised more than $30 million, which it is using for the herculean task of establishing ballot access in all 50 states for an eventual independent unity ticket. Whoever ends up running under the ticket will be a candidate with solid bipartisan credentials; someone, for example, like Joe Manchin.

“If Senator Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat, were to run for president, it probably wouldn’t be under the banner of a minor party—like the Greens or Libertarians—or as a straight independent,” Elliot Ackerman writes in The Atlantic. “Instead, he’s more likely to try to take advantage of what No Labels has done. Regardless of your politics, it’s worth paying attention to the group’s efforts. The organization it has created has the power to break the grip that the major parties have maintained on presidential politics for generations, a grip that has delivered ever more unpopular candidates.”

Jay Nixon, director of ballot integrity at No Labels and the former Democratic governor of Missouri, knows why they’re making the establishment nervous.

“If we get the good candidates, if we’re clearly not going to be a spoiler … then Americans may get the chance to vote for a commonsense, middle ground ticket,” Nixon said in an interview with The Missourian.

At this moment, however, No Labels is focused only on ballot access — no candidate has been named. No Labels said it would evaluate its ticket after the Super Tuesday primary elections on March 5.

Nixon has written that critics are intentionally missing the point: “No Labels is not running a presidential campaign. We are creating the option for a third-party campaign in the event the voters demand one. If the partisans want to stop us, all they have to do is win back the sensible voters they lost touch with.”

Regardless of what happens moving forward, No Labels has already accomplished one key task: It has drawn attention to the need to fix our dysfunctional and poisoned politics. It has rung the alarm on behalf of the American majority that the status quo is neither sustainable nor acceptable.

It’s ironic that the two unpopular front runners, Biden and Trump, have accused each other of being “a threat to democracy.” Their followers are doing the same. The establishment is doing the same. The mainstream media is doing the same. In the midst of this ugly and predictable warfare, everyone is accusing the other side of threatening democracy.

What they’ve all missed is what most Americans are thinking: The real threat to our democracy is a system that has given us a pathetic and disheartening rematch between Biden and Trump.

No Labels is listening to this commonsense majority. Will the establishment follow?

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