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No Labels Political Party Bloomberg News

Source – NY Times

In a Culture of Independence, Bloomberg Could Skip the Party

On Sunday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg flatly ruled out an independent run for president in 2012. On Monday, he appeared at the national unveiling in New York of No Labels, a group that aspires to build a grass-roots movement for political independents and independent-minded voters in both parties, and talked again about loosening the grip of both parties on the political process.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Monday in New York at the first event of No Labels, an independent political group. If Mr. Bloomberg’s denial is Shermanesque, then his behavior seems more Perot-like.

It’s possible that Mr. Bloomberg is discouraging his supporters because he really has closed the door on a presidential run. It’s also possible, though, that he understands something about the modern political culture that many of those speculating about the purpose of No Labels do not — that an independent not only no longer needs to spend time encouraging the formation of a party organization to run for president, but he’s also probably better off without one. Mr. Bloomberg brought some star power to the inaugural No Labels convention at Columbia University, which also featured speakers like Joe Scarborough, Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida and a smattering of congressmen and senators. No Labels aspires to become a counterweight to ideological groups like and the Tea Party movement — a network of activists devoted to pushing politicians from both parties toward a nonpartisan consensus on vital issues. It’s something of an odd conceit, given the decentralized way powerful grass-roots movements generally come together these days. After all, and the Tea Party groups sprang up organically and in a decentralized way, embraced by angry citizens circulating online petitions and holding rallies.

By contrast, No Labels was created by two Washington consultants, the Democratic fund-raiser Nancy Jacobson and the Republican image-shaper Mark McKinnon, and its slick opening event featured throngs of journalists, free boxed lunches and a song written for the occasion by the pop sensation Akon. The group’s slogan, printed on T-shirts and banners, summarizes its purpose this way: “Not left. Not right. Forward.”

Mr. Bloomberg — wearing a tie that was appropriately neither red nor blue, but a tasteful purple — took a muted role in the day’s proceedings, appearing on a crowded panel to discuss the dry details of reforming the electoral process. The low profile reflected a sensitivity among the mayor and the organizers about suggestions that No Labels might yet become a vehicle for Mr. Bloomberg’s supposed presidential ambitions.

Some commentators have speculated that No Labels could even form the basis of a serious third party, with the mayor at the helm, something America hasn’t seen since Ross Perot’s Reform Party collapsed from a long internal power struggle in 2000.

Such conjecture, however, misunderstands the essential dynamic that’s reshaping our politics — a dynamic that may also be central to understanding Mr. Bloomberg’s thinking. It conflates two related but distinctly different phenomena: the cyclical nature of third-party movements (like the Reform Party or Ralph Nader’s Green Party) on one hand, and the rise of independents on the other.

Third parties, at least since the advent of the Republicans in the 1850s, have generally been vehicles for making statements or for pushing the parties in an ideological direction. The Progressive Party, the States’ Rights Democratic Party of Strom Thurmond, the Socialists and the Libertarians — all of these 20th-century uprisings managed, for a time, to field candidates who affected the national debate. But none came especially close to winning. Those who think Mr. Bloomberg would want to build a similar kind of organization, be it No Labels or something else, are assuming that the growing power and disaffection of independent voters who identify with neither Democrats nor Republicans make a third party more viable than it has ever been. In fact, though, the rise of the independents represents a movement in exactly the opposite direction — away from party organizations altogether. This isn’t so much a political phenomenon as it is a cultural one. In the last decade or so, the Web has created an increasingly decentralized and customized society, in which a new generation of voters seems less aligned, generally, with large institutions. and the Tea Party groups, for instance, were born as protests against the establishments of both parties, and they empowered citizens to create their own agendas, rather than relying on any elected leadership.

What the current moment might offer, then, as Mr. Bloomberg surely knows, is an unprecedented opportunity not for a new party, but for an independent candidate who represents a break from the dictates of any party organization, mainstream or otherwise. In the current environment, the less of a party apparatus an independent candidate carries, the better his chances of success may be.

The most formidable obstacles to such candidacies have been money and ballot access. The first is easily surmountable now, as President Obama, another candidate who once scoffed at the idea of running for the White House, proved in 2008. (In Mr. Bloomberg’s case, money has never been an issue, in any event.)

The other problem — running the obstacle course of state-based laws intended mostly to keep outsider candidates out of the process — remains formidable, even in the Internet age. But such a signature-gathering effort is far easier to organize now, through online communities, than it was even in Mr. Perot’s day.

All of this might just explain why Mr. Bloomberg would reject the idea of running in 2012 while at the same time continuing to level a candidatelike critique of the status quo in Washington. Since he wouldn’t need to build a party organization in the way Mr. Perot did in 1992, Mr. Bloomberg can wait considerably longer — perhaps even until the 2012 primaries — to assess whether a campaign might be viable. In the meantime, ruling himself out as a candidate only enhances his credibility as a national reformer.

No Labels, then, should probably be seen as the advocacy group for bipartisan cooperation that its organizers say it is, rather than as the basis for a third-party campaign. The country may or may not need such a platform. The billionaire mayor surely does not.

#politics #politicsbloomberg #election2012 #NoLabels #republican #NoLables #NoLabels #democrats

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