‘No Labels’? No thanks

Among the many reasons Democrats took a shellacking in 2010 was the lack of brand identity. No one knows what the heck we are.The Republican brand is clear: anger, passion, as little government as possible. But the Democrats’ brand is … what?Obama’s brand has taken a hit because, instead of ending up with compromise, that’s how they start. It usually works better when you first take a stand and then consider compromise.Now comes a group urging the worst imaginable remedy: No Labels.At a recent New York City gathering, No Labels attracted some New Hampshire Democrats who appear to be planning to run for election in 2012, including former Portsmouth mayor Steve Marchand and former Sen. Maggie Hassan.Surely the intentionally calculated result of Democrats going along to get along is that, at the next election, the decimated, left-behind middle class won’t be able to blame just Republicans.If Democrats want to give up any hope of power, the No Labels recommended appeasement is the perfect tactic.Courage, to these folks, is some sort of bygone currency with no value in modern politics. After all, if you really stand for something, you may actually have to face criticism. I am reminded of the words attributed to Winston Churchill: If you’re a politician and you are not making some people angry, you’re not doing your job.One thing the old bulldog Churchill certainly did say: “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile – hoping it will eat him last.”Encouraging the plutocrats who are determined to complete their transformation of America from a republic governed of, by, and for the people to a blatant oligarchy wherein the government openly serves the moneyed interests, the No Labels group now cheerily waves the white flag of surrender.The No Labels website calls for strengthening the “mainstream.” But what is “mainstream”? No Labels wants Americans to accept that the far right is now the new “mainstream.” In whose interest is that? Certainly not traditional American values.The one-sided bipartisanship they exalt has already produced some interesting results: the USA Patriot Act, two unpaid-for wars where the outcome and exit strategy remain a “work in progress,” billions (more likely a trillion-plus) of taxpayer dollars bailing out the institutions that caused the worst financial meltdown in generations, thus consolidating even more money and power into even fewer and more systemically connected, unchecked mega-banks.We don’t need more such bipartisanship.When the Republicans got shellacked in 2006 and 2008, they did not attempt to imitate the victorious Democrats. They dug in, stuck with their guns, retained a backbone, and were rewarded in 2010.What we had in 2010 was largely a failure to communicate, about health care and many other issues. That lack of a messaging strategy must be addressed long before 2012. But communicating no brand at all is a guaranteed recipe for failure.It’s really not so hard to define the Democratic brand: We support equal opportunity, equal responsibility, and equal justice for all. We stand for aggressively revitalizing the American economy for the 21st century. We stand for quality education, a sustainable planet, and the old notion of government of, by, and for the people, a republic and not a plutocracy. It’s time for Democrats to stand up, not lie down.Politics ain’t beanbag. It’s not about playing nice in the schoolyard. It’s about standing up and fighting for your constituents and your principles.No Labels? No Thanks.State senator from 1990 to 2004, Burt Cohen hosts a radio show, “The Burt Cohen Show,” which can be heard on WSCA-FM and at TheBurtCohenShow.com.

Categories: Opinion