The Corner

Once More Into the No Labels Breach

I couldn’t help myself yesterday, and I watched a chunk of the No Labels “event” yesterday. High-frick-n-larious. Never before have so many has-been liberal politicians been convinced that they have a new lease on political life for no discernibly good reason. 

From my more serious take on the whole thing over at the E.B.:

I’ve been having a bit of fun on Twitter mocking this whole No Labels thing. For instance:

“Pupils formerly known as bullies celebrate label-liberation as they beat pupils formerly known as nerds into bloody stumps.”

“Animal formerly known as ‘cat’ still refuses to fetch, even though liberated from the ‘cat’ label.”


And after the Virginia court decision:

“Fear not liberals, ‘unconstitutional’ is only a label.”

And so on. But I would hate for my jocularity to mislead people. I’m deadly serious about how stupid and pernicious I think this whole thing is.

I think Stan Kurtz had it right. No Labels claims it wants to make it easier to talk about politics by making it more difficult for people it dislikes to talk about politics. It’s political correctness by a different name (and we all know how there are no labels in political correctness!).

I’ve been tuning in and out of the livecast of the NoLabelpalooza and it is so transparently obvious that this is a Trojan horse for a bunch of defeated liberal and moderate politicians to find some new rationale for their continued political relevance.

Is there “extreme” rhetoric on the Right and Left? Sure. But, there’s extremist rhetoric in the center, too. Centrists routinely demonize the people they think are extreme. Like everyone else, sometimes they make fair points, sometimes they don’t. But what the avowed centrists want to do is declare themselves the sole arbiters of reasonableness.

One of the myriad problems with this project is the idea that somehow the “center” is a more reasonable location that the Right or the Left, when all the center is—most of the time—is an average of the Left and Right’s positions. If you think the extreme Right is crazy and the extreme Left is crazy, why should it follow that splitting difference between the two is wise? It may be on some issues, but it just as easily may not be.

Oh, and the political spectrum is not binary. Libertarians reject statism in all its forms (or at least the good libertarians do!). Sometimes the Left agrees with the libertarians, sometimes the Right does. That’s why some libertarians have been trying to create a “libertarian center” with little success. You can get a glimpse into why that effort doesn’t work by simply contemplating the fact that the libertarian center and the David Gergen center look nothing alike.

Indeed, the irony is that what has passed for the center in one generation often seems extremist in the next. Official but “polite” racism was the mainstream centrist position not too long ago. Forced sterilizations, slavery, population control, Japanese internment, male-only suffrage, censorship, corporal punishment in schools, severe divorce laws, anti-sodomy laws, etc.—All of these things were for a time centrist but are now considered extreme or even unthinkable….

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