No Labels, No Candidates

[ Posted Thursday, April 4th, 2024 – 15:58 UTC ]

President Joe Biden's re-election campaign just got some good news today, as No Labels announced it is throwing in the towel and will not be running a third-party presidential ticket this year. This brings an end to one of those political science experiments that might have sounded good in the abstract, but which doesn't really live up to its promise in the end.

The basic idea was to run a so-called "Unity ticket," consisting of one Republican and one Democrat, for president and vice president. No Labels was initially coy about which one would lead the ticket, but in recent months let it be known that they were looking to run a moderate Republican for president, with a centrist Democrat as his or her running mate. All those voters out there yearning for a different choice than the two men who ran last time would thus be given a new option to vote for. No Labels deluded themselves into thinking they could draw enough of this protest vote to actually win enough states to win the presidency.

This was never actually a viable possibility, but that didn't stop them from raising a whole lot of money (tens of millions of dollars) and doing a whole lot of groundwork to get a line on as many states' ballots as they could (they succeeded in 21 states, and up until today were pushing to raise that number even higher). Now they won't be appearing on any ballots, since they won't be backing any actual candidates.

Here's how they explained their decision, from a statement they released to the media:

Americans remain more open to an independent presidential run and hungrier for unifying national leadership than ever before. But No Labels has always said we would only offer our ballot line to a ticket if we could identify candidates with a credible path to winning the White House. No such candidates emerged, so the responsible course of action is for us to stand down.

It's always refreshing to see some misguided group actually admit reality, isn't it? Especially when it comes before the fact and not after.

Their statement wasn't pure spin -- No Labels did indeed have a big problem recruiting any candidates with enough name recognition and plausibility to accept their gift of third-party access to ballots. They initially flirted with a few disaffected Democrats (Senator Joe Manchin being the most prominent) but got turned down. So they reached out to a number of Republicans -- Larry Hogan, Jon Huntsman, Nikki Haley, Chris Christie, David Petraeus, as well as others -- and were turned down by all of them as well. They were down to considering lieutenant governors (with zero national name recognition) before they finally admitted that nobody really wanted to run on their ticket. Chris Christie even gave it a serious look and conducted his own polling in over 10 states, before he admitted the reality that he wouldn't have a chance of winning.

No Labels always presented itself as some sort of beacon of hope which would cause a wave of support among those who felt that the two major American political parties had put forth "extremist" candidates. They would represent the sane middle ground, in their way of thinking. However, the problem with this whole construct is that while Donald Trump is indeed an extremist candidate, Joe Biden just isn't. He's not some rabid progressive lefty and never has been.

But that's what you get out of a group founded in part by the likes of Joe Lieberman. Lieberman considered everyone to the left of him (which included pretty much the entire Democratic Party) to be fire-breathing radicals, even though that is a laughably ridiculous notion. Lieberman's unexpected death last week was probably the biggest reason why No Labels was finally able to see that the only thing they were likely to accomplish was to act as a "spoiler" and hand the White House back to Trump -- an outcome they swore they weren't interested in.

There are two main types of third parties in American politics. The first is in it for the long haul and is mostly satisfied with their gadfly status. This would include the Green Party and the Libertarian Party, who both do get on ballots regularly but have never produced a national presidential contender (or even a senator, for that matter). The second type of third party is one that is completely personality-based. Some charismatic figure launches a quixotic presidential campaign and creates a political party to have all the trappings of a real campaign. After they lose and fade from the scene, the party withers on the vine and dies. H. Ross Perot's "Reform Party" is the best example of this, since he did win almost 1-in-5 votes in one presidential election, but even he never carried a single state and thus never got a single Electoral College vote.

No Labels seemed to be trying to be both of these things at once. It did raise an impressive amount of money and getting on 21 states' ballots is certainly nothing to sneeze at. But it was too cute by half in the method it chose to achieve all of this. They weren't technically a political party. This was a dodge intended to preserve the secrecy of their donors. They were going to do all the groundwork and then turn over all their ballot lines to a ticket of candidates who would have to start their own political party (or launch their own campaign apparatus, at the very least), which would be covered by all the campaign finance laws. So even if they had come up with some perfect ticket of candidates, those candidates would start with nothing -- no tens of millions of dollars to use in their campaign, no on-the-ground organization at all. This would be pretty tough to do, especially considering how late in the game we are (perhaps this might have been feasible if they had settled on a ticket last summer, to put this another way).

But no charismatic candidates emerged. Nobody with either very deep pockets of their own (Perot was a billionaire before he launched his run) or enough star power to raise boatloads of money overnight appeared on the horizon as the perfect No Labels candidate.

Which, to their credit, they finally realized. They could have completely embarrassed themselves by backing a candidate nobody had ever heard of before, but they wisely chose not to go down this path.

Personally, I never gave them a chance even if they had gotten one of their favored candidates to run. Joe Manchin is a darling among the Washington media, but how many people would actually vote for him for president? Especially with a Republican as a vice presidential pick -- it just didn't seem like a viable proposal. And their Republican picks weren't any more impressive. Jon Huntsman? Chris Christie? They both tried running for president before and never caught fire, so who in their right mind would expect a different result this time around?

So the No Labels presidential run saga is over before it even begins. As I said, this is very good news indeed for Team Biden. It is one less headache to worry about, heading into the 2024 election. They still have R.F.K. Jr. and Cornel West to keep them up at nights, but at least there won't be another well-financed challenger to defeat in November.

A "national unity ticket" sure sounds good on paper. Let's all come together and meet in the middle! We'll defeat the polarization and partisanship by electing someone who will work with both sides! Yeah, that'll do it!

Except that putting it into practice while Donald Trump is still a threat to American democracy was never a good idea, and I for one am glad No Labels finally realized this and gracefully bowed out.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


12 Comments on “No Labels, No Candidates”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Joe Biden's re-election campaign just got some good news today, as No Labels announced it is throwing in the towel and will not be running a third-party presidential ticket this year.

    Shocking. Positively shocking. :-)

  2. [2] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    For the record at least one of NL’s Sugar Daddy is/was a huge contributor to Trump. I don’t think you acknowledge that the non-MAGAt electorate has gotten more sophisticated because they recognize the danger of Trumpism. It’s why Repugs had such a lousy midterm election cycle and it’s why a GOP funded NL ticket would never fly.

  3. [3] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    sorry i didn't get to fully respond to your earlier query, as liz hijacked the conversation. as i was saying, there are layers upon layers of propaganda and alternate realities swirling around the palestinian conflict. and as we've seen, it's very easy and tempting for people with limited information to jump to erroneous conclusions, and then remain married to those conclusions no matter what additional information might otherwise demonstrate their fallibility.

    as such, it's extremely important for anyone seriously interested in "getting it" to try to put themselves in as many different people's shoes as possible, and then see each perspective from as realistic a perspective as possible. i would definitely NOT say (as many israelis do) that we should consider it a lost cause and just annex gaza and boot all the palestinians. i agree that two independent states can't really exist at the moment, because the palestinian governments aren't currently capable of operating independently without devolving into something like ISIS.

    what i WOULD say is that there needs to be a massive international re-evaluation of what we're hoping to accomplish there. as ridiculous as it may seem, donald trump as a fundamentally corrupt land developer had an instinctive understanding of how things work in most of the middle-east, and was somewhat successful in starting things rolling in a positive direction. in order to build on that, the international community must somehow be brought to understand that they can't continue to feed the palestinian delusion that they're going to "end the occupation" by essentially ending the existence of Israel. right now the media campaign to "free palestine" is just another layer of terrorism, designed to try and get the world to gang up on israel and ends its existence. realistically, that's just not going to happen.

  4. [4] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    BUT it's really bad that the UN, south africa and now even some members of the biden administration are accusing the IDF of "apartheid" and "genocide," making noises about withholding arms, and so forth. it's giving the palestinians false hope that their delusion of israel's dissolution will actually come to pass, which moves us even further away from them actually having a viable companion-state to israel in the future.

    blaming netanyahu is the easy way out. he's a proto-fascist and fundamentally corrupt just like trump, but that doesn't mean he's to blame for the current state of things. in some ways that makes him more prototypically middle-eastern than his political contemporaries. he's a symptom of the disease, not one of its causes.

    in order to treat the underlying problem of the arab holy delusion, hamas needs to be put out of operation if not permanently then at least for a good long time. that's why regardless of whether or not bibi remains in power or the US provides arms, the war will continue until one side or the other is completely unable to fight.


  5. [5] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    i also shouldn't say "arab" holy delusion, because not all arabs have it, and it includes persians as well. perhaps "islamist" would be a more accurate term.

  6. [6] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Thing of it is that I was pretty pro-Palestinian pro-two state solution rolling into October. But I read that 159 page Israeli view that poet provided and watched a ton of videos and extensively researched via the WSJ, NYT, WaPo, Al-Jazeera et alia and it changed my mind.

  7. [7] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Here’s an interesting quote from
    Gaza & the Laws of War/Gray Mirror/Substack. It’s a long read where the author asserts that the only two “real” forms of government are Monarchy and Oligarchy.

    Imagine if US foreign policy stopped giving a shit about Gaza. Israel, we would say—we’re done. We don’t care. Do whatever…

    Here is what the Israelis would do: cut off food, power and water to Gaza, do their best to give everyone a safe way to walk out unarmed, house them in spartan but livable conditions, and send the Gazans to another country—preferably one in which they speak the language. If no one will take them, they can have their own enclave—with no waterfront property.

    This enclave is entirely surrounded by Israel. There is no way to get or build a weapon inside it. There is just food, water…

    Since Hamas attacked Israel, Israel has a right to seek redress in the court of battle. Taking Hamas’s land and deporting its people creates both redress and security.

    Again, these Palestinian assholes have turned down a two-state solution for seventy-six years and counting. So, fuck ‘em.

  8. [8] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:


    I tried to read that but I got to the third point and it was just such bullshit it was hard to take the rest seriously.

    Palestinian claims to be related to the Canaanites are a recent phenomenon and contrary to historical evidence. The Canaanites disappeared three millennia ago, and no one knows if any of their descendants survived or, if they did, who they would be."

    Multiple teams have extracted DNA from ancient Canaanite burial sites all over the Levant then compared the results to DNA taken from modern populations over the same area. Turns out if you are from the Levant, you are a Canaanite. Jew, Arab, Palestinian, even Persians, all related to the Canaanites. Though they found the "purest" population to be the Lebanese.

    If you are going to put large bold and red "fact" in front of me, it had dam better be, especially when dated 2023. I made a flippant comment at the time about it but it was not historically inaccurate...

    It's been fascinating watching the whole thing unfold. From the bloodthirsty pro Israel in r/2ndYomKippurWar on reddit (great place for combat footage) to the lgbtq+ going pro Palestinian...We support all the downtrodden even if large swaths of downtrodden what to kill or suppress other downtrodden.

    I think blaming Netanyahu, at least partially, is quite valid. He was funding Hamas over the Palestinian authority and got complacent in defending the Gaza border and has been supporting increased settlements in the West Bank because of the make up of his coalition. I also think there is an element of revenge for betrayal coming from him. Yes, Hamas needs to be destroyed but if ends up in mass suffering, starvation and death to Palestinian civilians with no Marshall Plan like rebuilding afterward, they will reform within a decade. The new group may not be named Hamas but be just the same. We are also entering a new era of warfare. Will the Iron Dome protect against a swarm of drones coming in below tree level? Probably not.

    I have known many Jews, mostly rich New York businessmen and deadheads but other than different decorations during the winter holidays, their devotion to their religion was low. Some might not get bacon on their cheeseburger but they would still get the cheeseburger. Never really thought much about their heritage. To me they were Americans who just happened to be Jewish.

    On the other hand I worked for a Palestinian from the west bank for a while. He was by far the best small business owner I have ever worked for. Really cared about his employees and a stand up guy. While I worked for him, he went back to visit family in the west bank a couple of times and his stories of crossing the Israel border was always interesting. This guy was a multimillionaire American with with an American passport and always took shit at the border. Always. He even had his fuck you I'm an American moment when the border guard did not like the look of him and stamped his passport permanent non-entry. They went in anyway, just threw some blankets over him as he huddled in the back seat, but later went to the embassy and reported his passport stolen. New passport, no stamp, Fuck you.

    To me as an atheist, it's all just bad religion and as an American mutt the importance of a homeland is quite lost on me...

  9. [9] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Dunno what we disagree about unless it’s the fuck ‘em, kick their sorry asses out part. No question but that the Jews were in Canaan first, if that’s what you think we disagree on.

  10. [10] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    I generally think this is a case that just because one side is wrong does not automatically make the other side right. Both can be wrong to varying degrees. The Canaanites were there first and have never left...

  11. [11] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict was first published in 1974. It seems like a pretty pointless nitpick by which to invalidate its entire historical account, that the author is not up to date on genome mapping - especially since you've just mentioned that the most direct descendants of the Canaanites turned out to be the Lebanese.


  12. [12] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    furthermore, I didn't cite the account as an authoritative historical record, I cited it as an admittedly propagandist explanation of events as they unfolded over the last 75 years, from the Israeli perspective. Mitchell Bard isn't out to give every side in the conflict a fair telling, he's explaining what Israelis think and why they think it.

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