It is a sign of our divided times that, in a nation of more than 340 million people, a few thousand votes in just three states have proven to be decisive in the last two presidential elections. Indeed, in 2016, Donald Trump’s narrow victories in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin by a combined 80,000 votes propelled him across the finish line, while in 2020, Joe Biden secured the presidency by a margin of about 40,000 votes in Wisconsin, Arizona, and Georgia. With most pundits on both sides of the political divide predicting another excruciatingly tight contest between Trump and Biden in 2024, the entry of even a semi-viable third party or independent candidate, especially a centrist with no labels or the type of uncompromising ideology associated with both Trump and Biden, will be significant enough to disrupt the fragile, near 50-50 balance of the electorate in the battleground states which will again decide the presidency.
Already, Democrats are worried about the slice of their far-left flank they are likely to lose with the entry of a genuine high-profile progressive, Cornel West, as the Green Party presidential candidate. But the far greater threat comes from a group of moderate politicos eschewing ideological definition altogether. Indeed, conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans, two species facing extinction in the present balkanized political climate, have joined forces to take control of the No Labels political party, first founded in 2009 but now more active than ever. It is headed by the most famous moderate Democrat in the land, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Democrat-turned-independent Joe Lieberman (Al Gore’s running mate in 2000) and anti-Trump Republican Larry Hogan, former governor of Maryland.
No Labels Is for Real
It’s one thing to form a new political party – anyone can do it, and the country is sprinkled with obscurities such as the Guns and Dope Party, Undecided Cow Party and the Birthday Party – seriously. But it is quite another thing to actually get your party’s name printed on the ballot – it costs untold millions of dollars. And No Labels has now succeeded in gaining ballot access in 20% of the country – that’s ten states, including the battlegrounds of Arizona, Nevada, and North Carolina. They have done so despite the active opposition of Democrats, led by former House Majority Leader-turned-lobbyist Dick Gephardt, initiating legal action to keep No Labels off the ballot in multiple states.
Indeed, while No Labels touts its absence of ideology in its very name, and theoretically could draw support from voters across the ideological spectrum, it is mostly Democrats who are losing sleep over the possibility of an interloper in their diabolical plan to win the election. It is increasingly apparent that their scheme has been to keep arresting Trump, thus inflaming his base and increasing his support in the GOP so he can secure the party’s nomination – and then Biden will win again simply by reminding people of how awful Trump is. Is this not reminiscent of 2016, when Democrats celebrated the nomination of Trump, certain he was eminently beatable? Apparently, once-bitten does not always add up to twice-shy.
So, what percent of the vote could Manchin, Lieberman, or Hogan realistically expect to capture? Informed speculation hovers in the vicinity of 20% – roughly the same as Ross Perot in 1992. That would hardly be enough to actually win, but it would certainly be more than sufficient to flip the election to either Trump or Biden. And while No Labels Party officials claim they will bring forward a presidential nominee at their convention in April of 2024 only if they believe they are in a position to actually win the election, and not act merely as a spoiler, their aggressive ballot access campaign suggests they will likely nominate a candidate no matter what.
The most obvious choice would be Manchin, a thorn in the side of both establishment and extreme Democrats who has been shunned by his own party and is trailing his likely GOP opponent by double digits in a prospective race for re-election to the Senate. A bid for the White House would allow Manchin to remain a pivotal figure at the center of national politics, just as he has been in famously blocking his party’s most extreme measures since Biden entered the White House.
Already, spoiler candidates represent something of a recurring nightmare for the Democratic party. The small slice of votes drawn by Green Party candidate Jill Stein in 2016 essentially cost Hillary Clinton Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania – and the election. And Democrats still have not forgiven consumer activist Ralph Nader for his candidacy in 2000 that almost certainly lost Florida – and the election – for Al Gore. Left-wing media is doing its part in trying to marginalize No Labels, with various outlets claiming the movement is being secretly bankrolled by Republicans bent on carving up the non-Trump vote. Vox tried a new approach, speaking out of both sides of its mouth, and reaching a truly amusing conclusion. Ignoring the fact that Joe Biden has essentially labeled half the country – those who voted for Trump – as extremists bent on destroying democracy, the prominent left-wing site tortuously concludes, “There is a place for No Labels as a concept. Promoting bipartisanship is a positive activity for American democracy at all levels. But we’ve already got that in President Biden.” Good luck convincing the American people of that.
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