Does the 'No Labels' Movement Have a Chance?

February 10, 2014

Not unlike Iowa State and Iowa fans’ allegiances, lawmakers here tend to strongly identify with one political party.

No Labels, a movement that wants warring politicians to hug their ideology close but tone down the hyper-partisanship and solve problems together, is trying to gain traction in Iowa.

But in a place where many state and federal officeholders like to tout bipartisan accomplishments, it’s been a tough go.

“If people don’t know much about us, there’s some fear, ‘Oh, that’s some kind of moderate political group,’ but we’re not,” said co-founder Mark McKinnon, a GOP strategist who worked with George W. Bush and John McCain. “We’re conservatives and liberals. Half Republicans, half Democrats.”

Only two of Iowa’s six congressmen are among the 92-member No Labels problem-solvers caucus: Democratic U.S. Reps. Dave Loebsack and Bruce Braley.

Several state lawmakers interviewed by The Des Moines Register had never heard of No Labels. Critics said it’s a pie-in-the-sky movement, popular with the media because it sounds so happy and open-minded.

No Labels, which has a staff of 15 and a budget of $4 million, is serious about building networks of people who support problem-solving and want to work toward a bipartisan agenda that a new president could enact in 2017, organizers say.

The group’s agenda includes goals that both parties hold up as priorities, including job creation and energy independence.

“We believe that the next president will be the one that argues best they are a problem solver,” said co-founder Nancy Jacobson, a Democratic strategist who worked with Bill Clinton and Evan Bayh.

An Iowan is leading the state-level work nationwide: state Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Waterloo.

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