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BOSTON PUBLIC RADIO
Tue August 28, 2012
Better Politics with 'No Labels'
At the end of the summer of 2012, you might have felt trapped inside two political campaign infomercials: first for the Republicans, then for the Democrats.
But when most people step back from the political process, they're not happy with it.
They think it consumes vast resources and produces too little. And that unhappiness extends to former politicians, presidential aides and chiefs of staff.
So what if you could reinvent the U.S. political system and create something that really works? How would you do it? That's the mission of the group No Labels, which has created plans to fix both Congress and the presidency.
Mark McKinnon — vice-chair of Hill & Knowlton Strategies, former advisor to President George W. Bush and co-founder of No Labels — has a strong point of view on America’s current political dilemma.“The problem that we have today is that the parties aren’t talking to one another,” McKinnon explains. “They actually run for Congress saying that if elected they will not compromise under any circumstances, and that’s a problem — because that’s what legislating and governing is all about. It’s giving a little so you can move the country forward, it’s not just scoring points for the party.”
Bill Galston, co-founder of No Labels, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former aide to President Bill Clinton, believes that the dispute between Democrats and Republicans in Washington doesn’t accurately represent the views of the American people. No Labels believes that though most Americans identify with a political party, they are not hyper-partisan: they want Congress to function, even if it means that Democrats and Republicans have to compromise.
Galston explains, “The reason that [polarization] is happening in Congress is because we have redistricting, which we call gerrymandering, where they find districts that are safe for strong Republicans and safe for Democrats. There are all kinds of reforms that we need to put in place to change the representation in Congress because it doesn’t reflect the broad middle of America.”
But gerrymandering isn’t the only problem. Americans are also relocating to live by neighbors who have similar political views, a shift that complicates the process of drawing competitive, nonpartisan district lines.
Statistics support No Labels’s theory of American frustration. A recent Gallup poll found that over 80 percent of Americans believe that Congress does the right thing only some or none of the time. The reforms that No Labels suggests aren’t ones affiliated with a particular party; instead, they aim to make Congress more efficient. For example, No Labels proposes that if Congress does not pass a budget, a decision that drives policy reform, legislators should be docked pay. No Labels’ proposed reforms target more than just Congress. The organization also wants to institute a question-and-answer session similar to that conducted in the British Parliament, in which the prime minister must respond to tough questions from both political parties.
But despite their long list of reforms, Galston and McKinnon don’t see No Labels’ goals as radical. “That’s pretty much how the rest of America works,” McKinnon says. “If you don’t show up to your job and you don’t do your job, you don’t get paid.”