Monthly Archives: July 2011

No Labels next step? Changing the process and politics of problem solving.

Today, No Labels had an exciting and insightful, albeit muggy, day in Washington.

Approximately 150 “Citizen Leaders” came to the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill to hear from a number of distinguished bipartisan speakers, from David Walker, Comptroller General under both President Clinton and Bush 43, to Mickey Edwards, 8-term congressman and VP of the Aspen Institute, to Former Senator Max Cleland, a true war hero and patriot.

The attendees were both young and old, from student interns to senior citizens. And they came from all political persuasions; hardcore left, right, centrist, independent, republican and democrat. Nevertheless, within the fray, there was one compromise they all seemed to agree on:

We need to change the approach we take to solving our nation’s problems.

Professional political operatives and mass media have long been trying to uncover the “hidden agenda” of No Labels. They ask questions about its stance on the issues, such as the status of Medicare and Social Security. They try to tack on conspiracy theories about the group’s motives, its supporters and its current focus, the debt crisis (which is the current issue on the table, not the only issue for the movement). Commentators on the right and the left vilify the group for compromising on principles, all while missing its fundamentally simple point:

No Labels is about the politics of problem solving.

There are countless groups and think-tanks that exist on the right, the left and the center who produce data on which solutions are “best.” But few groups look at the actual way decision-making happens; the lack of open-primaries, the party line votes, and the oppression of common sense by extremes.

Of the many Citizen Leaders that spoke during lunch today, a multitude of visions were presented for what the No Labels movement is to become in the next five years. Out of these many visions, a common purpose and step forward emerged: reform the way we approach American politics through steps like promoting civil discourse, negotiation, and open-mindedness. No Labels doesn’t carry a bunch of secret weapons; no perfect solutions. And that’s not what it aims to do. Instead, No Labels works on getting Americans of all persuasions talking to each other about the issues again, to open up our market of ideas, and truly innovate.

In being a movement based on an approach to problem solving, the next step is promoting a now-novel concept:

Politics is not just about the ends, but the means.

Full disclosure: The author is an Intern with No Labels. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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Enough about Casey Anthony

It’s time for America’s fixation on the Casey Anthony case to end.

The amount of press the case received may have been well deserved, but the continuing obsession has had negative consequences for our national discourse. The murder itself, of course, was horrendous; what happened to Caylee Anthony is painful to hear and it is unconscionable how someone could do this to an innocent child. Nevertheless, the corresponding circus around the trial and subsequent verdict is at best a lot of hot air and at worst a desecration of informed and civil conversation.

This case is not unique. Sadly, people commit horrible acts, including murder against children, more often that we would like to admit. The obsession with Caylee’s death overshadows all of the still open cases that could be solved. As much as Caylee’s death brings out great compassion and pain, the idea that there are hundreds of other children undergoing continuous abuse pains me just as much. The angry energy we show towards Casey could be much better served as positive energy directed towards enhancing victim’s services, providing proper foster care, and creating a sense of shared responsibility towards humanity. Our constant bickering about the case, our dissatisfaction with the verdict, and our general hatred put us in a vicious cycle.

Most abhorrent about our obsession, however, is its local and national impact. On the local level, some of the jurors in the case have had to leave their jobs, afraid of retaliation. They made a decision based on the law and in doing so, maintained high standards of rationality and reasonable doubt. Ensuring a rational legal system is far more important than impulsive justice. No one should receive death threats for doing their civic duty.

On the national level, this sensationalism has distracted us from other issues of great consequence. From human rights abuses to war to our own families, we are neglecting far more pressing issues than this one case of injustice. This may seem a bit general, but it is also the truth.

Anthony will face her conscience. In the meanwhile, it’s time for us to move on. We have bigger problems to deal with; let’s spend what little time we have on those.

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