Pushback: Spoiler alert: No labels on ballot

Al Norman

Al Norman

Published: 04-02-2024 5:22 PM

Modified: 04-03-2024 3:01 PM

Joe Lieberman was a political chameleon. He served for 24 years as a Democratic U.S. senator from Connecticut. He was Al Gore’s Democratic nominee for vice president. He ran unsuccessfully in 2004 for president in the Democratic primary. In 2006, he won the U.S. Senate race running on the Connecticut for Lieberman label. In 2008 he gave an endorsement speech at the Republican National Convention for John McCain for president.

Most recently, Lieberman was the founding chairman of No Labels, a group working “to ensure Americans have the choice to vote for a presidential ticket that features strong, effective and honest leaders who will commit to working closely with both parties to find commonsense solutions to America’s biggest problems.” But according to some political analysts, No Labels itself has become one of “America’s biggest problems.”

No Labels says: “We are working to get on the 2024 voting ballots in states across the country, and we may offer our ballot line to a Unity Presidential ticket if the American people demand it … most Americans don’t think either party is likely to offer that kind of choice for president in 2024.”

No Labels has raised more than $70 million to get on state ballots. According to Popular Information, No Labels has refused to release a list of any of its donors, saying they are not required to by law — “an odd position for an organization dedicated to restoring ‘trust’ in institutions.”

Politicians being floated as potential No Labels candidates include Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Nikki Haley of North Carolina. Lieberman admitted that No Labels would consider Haley as their candidate, if “she declares any interest in being part of our bipartisan unity ticket.” Lieberman said No Labels was “talking to a lot of people in both parties about potentially running. None of them have said ‘no,’ but none of them have really said, ‘Yes, I’m ready.’”

Many voters will not view either of these candidates as “unity party” choices. What the No Labels ticket will do is siphon votes away more from Biden than Trump, serving as a spoiler in November’s outcome.

Robert Reich, former secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton, calls No Labels “a front group for Donald Trump, trying to disguise itself as a viable third party. No Labels is funded in part by major Trump supporters, including GOP megadonor Harlan Crow — secret billionaire benefactor to Justice Clarence Thomas. No Labels’ right-wing backers have one purpose in mind: to neutralize just enough votes to hand the election to Trump … The premise it was founded on — that Trump and Biden are equally extreme — is totally bogus. There is no middle ground between democracy and fascism.”

In mid-January, No Labels filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, against “a group of activists and party activists who have participated in an alleged illegal conspiracy to use intimidation, harassment and fear against representatives of No Labels, its donors and its potential candidates.” Lieberman told The Hill newspaper: “The American people want another choice for president this year. No Labels is working to provide that choice. No one in our country has a right to prevent that choice from being offered to the voters.”

One of the groups named in the DOJ complaint was MoveOn, which wrote in an email to its members: ”In a massive public relations stunt, No Labels, the group funded by Harlan Crow — the collector of Nazi memorabilia and funder of Clarence Thomas’s extravagant lifestyle — announced that it filed a complaint with the Justice Department, accusing MoveOn of criminal harassment, extortion, and ‘unlawful conspiracy’ under RICO — the law often used to prosecute organized crime. MoveOn has been working for more than a year to expose the billionaire-backed group’s dangerous and deceptive 3rd-party presidential campaign that threatens to reinstall Donald Trump in the White House. And we have no plans to stop now.”

In a March 14 interview on CBS News, a No Labels spokesman said the group is looking for a Republican at the top of the ticket because “we want to take votes away from Donald Trump.” But No Labels will take away Biden votes from citizens unhappy with him.

In the last century, no third party candidate, from Robert LaFollette to George Wallace, from Ralph Nader to Jill Stein, has received more than 19% of total votes cast. But with the 2024 election margin projected as door-crack thin, a crowded ballot with RFK Jr. plus a well-funded third party No Labels candidate, the “uncommitted” voter could become a high-stakes spoiler.

Al Norman’s PUSHBACK columns appear twice a month in The Recorder. He lives in Greenfield.