No Labels’ Gardner “Endorsement” Backfires (For No Labels)

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Back in April, a reported "endorsement" of GOP U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner by the nonpartisan advocacy group No Labels caused tremendous controversy, leading to the group's clarification that their "Seal of Approval" is not a bonafide candidate endorsement at all. A week later, it came out that No Label co-founder Mark McKinnon had been wrong to characterize this as an "implied endorsement," saying that was strictly his "personal opinion"–although it was not represented as such originally, or when Gardner touted this "endorsment" widely. The belated correction from McKinnon, a former aide to George W. Bush, was an odd footnote in an episode that hinted at something more.

And as Meredith Shiner at Yahoo News reports today, there was indeed a lot more going on behind the scenes than Gardner or McKinnon wanted to talk about in the wake of No Labels' "endorsement."

[T]hough No Labels has positioned itself as a warrior against gridlock, an internal document obtained by Yahoo News suggests the group is banking on more political dysfunction in an attempt to find “opportunity” and relevance for itself…

“Should the balance of power in the U.S. Senate flip following the 2014 midterm elections and Republicans gain control, No Labels sees an opportunity to bridge the gap between Congress and the White House,” the document reads in its “Break Through Strategy” section. “With Republicans holding control of both chambers in Congress and a Democrat in the White House, the likelihood of gridlock will be higher than ever before.

“We have already begun back door conversations with Senate leaders to discuss this increasingly likely scenario,” the document continues.

This privately stated position exacerbates an already publicly spoiled relationship with Senate Democrats, who are still fuming from an April incident in which the group supported conservative Republican Cory Gardner in Colorado over Manchin’s colleague, incumbent Democrat Mark Udall. The endorsement, which No Labels later tried to clarify by saying that any candidate could be backed by the group if they just agreed to be a member, was touted by Gardner in press releases and caused the few Senate Democrats involved with the group to threaten to pull their membership, according to Democratic sources. [Pols emphasis]

We had heard the rumors, but this story confirms that the "implied endorsement" of Gardner by No Labels caused a major rift in this allegedly nonpartisan organization, with participating Democrats considering the endorsement of Gardner to be both political betrayal and objectively indefensible. After all, "endorsing" a candidate who earned the dubious distinction of tenth most conservative member of the U.S. House in 2012, earned by taking such divisive stands as shutting down the federal government to stop Obamacare and risking national default in budget negotiations, cannot help but throw No Labels' credibility into question. How does Gardner fit with the stated goal of replacing "the culture of conflict and division with a politics of problem solving and consensus building?"

Yahoo News continues–Gardner doesn't fit at all, and that sums up the trouble with No Labels.

Multiple Senate Democratic aides characterized the relationship between No Labels and Senate Democratic leaders as “hostile,” and said that the current distance stems from the controversy surrounding Gardner and the Colorado Senate race. [Pols emphasis]

In April, No Labels gave its “Problem Solvers seal” to Gardner, the GOP challenger to the Senate Democratic incumbent Udall. Gardner touted the seal as an endorsement from No Labels, a situation that incensed members of the Senate Democratic caucus.

Gardner and No Labels then were forced to clarify the meaning of the seal, after Democratic members threatened to leave the group and multiple No Labels board calls were held to discuss the matter…

Gardner was among the top-10 most conservative members of the House in 2012 and the 98th in 2013, according to rankings by the National Journal. But the group has also given the seals to Reps. Peter Welch and Jared Huffman, who were among the top-20 most liberal members of the House in 2013, according to National Journal. It’s not that No Labels has shifted rightward ideologically and deliberately, it’s that it’s initial design to provide cover to politicians on both sides to work in a bipartisan way also gives cover to politicians who won’t but want to have lapel pins on their jackets saying they do. [Pols emphasis]

There are two ways to look at this: it's quite possible, and we tend to think in the aftermath of the Gardner "endorsement" fiasco, that No Labels has always simply been a front for unpopular Republicans to obtain token Democratic cover. But, as this story suggests, it's also possible that the organization's once-lofty goals of transcending partisanship, and ending the gridlock that has eroded the confidence of so many Americans, have been subverted by politicians who desire only the pretense of "working together."

Whether No Labels was duped or a willing agent of Gardner's deception, they've only managed to worsen the public's cynicism with politics. And we're pretty sure that's a failure of their most basic mission.


21 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. ModeratusModeratus says:

    SO what you're saying is, the bipartisan group No Labels thinks Republicans will take the Senate.

    That's what Nate Silver thinks too.

    Scandal! (hee hee hee)

    • DavieDavie says:

      No, I think the gist is that No Labels is just another partisan hack Republican outfit.  

      Hey —  maybe you should send your resume to them.  That way you can finally get paid to beat off at the keyboard!

    • kwtreemamajama55 says:

      Vietnamese "Banh Mi" Chicken Burger from epicurious

      cucumber, thinly sliced

      1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced into ribbons

      3 radishes, thinly sliced

      1 cup white vinegar

      2 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

      1 teaspoon sugar

      6 ounces firm tofu

      1 egg

      1/4 cup scallions, chopped

      1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided

      1 1/4 pounds ground chicken

      1 tablespoon olive oil

      2 teaspoons sesame oil

      1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms

      2 teaspoons soy sauce

      1 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

      1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

      1/8 teaspoon brown sugar

      1 cup bean sprouts

      1 bunch cilantro, chopped

      4 whole-wheat hamburger buns

      yield: 4 servings


      In a glass bowl, combine cucumber, carrot and radishes. In a small pot, bring white vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, sugar

      and 1 cup water to a boil; pour over vegetables and refrigerate until pickled, 1 hour. Heat oven to 400°F. In a food processor, pulse tofu, egg, scallions, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and remaining 1 teaspoon salt until combined, 30 seconds.

      In a bowl, fold tofu mixture into chicken; form into 4 patties. Grease a 12" x 12" baking sheet with olive oil. Bake burgers until internal temperature reaches 165°F, 20 minutes. In a medium skillet, heat sesame oil. Sauté shiitakes, 2 minutes. Add soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, cumin, brown sugar and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook 2 minutes.

      Divide burgers, mushrooms, pickled salad, bean sprouts and cilantro among buns.

    • BlueCatBlueCat says:

      No lLbels is non-partisan just like Corey Gardner is now against personhood.

  2. ZappateroZappatero says:

    No Labels the same as that stupid Third Way on which Mark Udall is an honorary co-chair. No one but D.C. insiders care about this phony, meaningless bipartisanship. 

  3. VoyageurVoyageur says:

    Any group that calls  ultra-righy winger Cory Gardner a "problem solver" should be called "No brains," not "no labels."

  4. Craig says:

    The reality is that "No Labels" and other predecessors or similar thinking organizations just have a completely flawed concept.  There is no universal ideology to hold centerists, moderates, whatever you want to call us in the middle together.  Therefore, there is no fundraising base and no chance of success.  Trust me, I served on the National Board of Republicans for Choice which at least had a very narrow ideological base. 

    These organizations are just conscience soothers for the "Country Club Republicans" who made a deal with the devil and are now living to regret it.  The Gerald Ford-George Bush Republicans are gone from elected office and the folks who are in power now are ruining the party.  And the Country Club Republican set just doesn't know what to do with itself and is mad that the natives are restless.  Why won't those stupid Tea Party people knuckle under to the obvious wisdom and power of the Country Club Republicans?

    • BlueCatBlueCat says:

      Sounds like a very apt analysis to me from someone who knows their Republicans. I come from generations of Dems but lived in a suburb with plenty of Republican neighbors and I recall that, in my youth, not only were my suburban Chicago Republican neighbors not any more concerned than Dems with the kind of stuff today's aggressively religious right Republicans obsess about but making a big public deal out of religious matters in general was considered to be in poor taste. 

      Don't remember any of my friends' parents having trouble with their kids studying evolution in science class or the fact that our public schools (Cook County) weren't  places for official prayers. The only family on my street that had such concerns sent their kids, at their own expense, to Catholic School without whining about it. Other than that, they were just as friendly with the rest of us Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians and Jews as anybody else. I know things were different back then in small towns such as the one my husband came from where they had bible study every week in their public school, but not in the Chicago Cook County 'burbs. No corporal punishment either.

      I also never remember anyone trying to get me to accept Jesus to be saved, as happened to my son at school in 1990s Colorado pretty regularly. It would have been considered sticking your nose into another family's private business in a completely uncalled for way.

      I miss those sensible 1950s and 60s Republicans. Of course the Country Club variety had no use for Jews much less people of color, but my neighborhood was pure middling middle class (also all white which was par for the course. I realize it was not some misty golden age), not County Club, and we all socialized and got along great, even during election season. 

      Wouldn't want to go back to that era in terms of equal rights for women and minorities, segregation, whites getting away with murder of blacks in places where no jury would ever convict a white man for such a thing,  fear and loathing of gays and lots of other not very Leave it to Beaver stuff, but it wasn't all bad. There are a few things it wouldn't hurt to bring back.

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