Former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut sat down with The Washington Post newsletter The Early in mid-July to answer questions about the new organization he co-chairs. It calls itself “No Labels,” and it’s in the process of lining up ballot access for … well, something.
“Democratic strategists and anti-Trump Republican operatives have concluded,” David Corn writes at Mother Jones, “that its effort could siphon more votes from President Joe Biden than Donald Trump.”
Cue the Election 2024 season premiere of Spoiler Theater!
The TL;DR on “spoiler” worries:
Votes don’t belong to, and can’t be “siphoned from,” candidates. Your vote belongs to you, and only you, until you cast it. Only then does it belong to someone else, and that someone else is the candidate you cast it for. Neither Joe Biden nor Donald Trump is magically entitled to it. If you decide to vote Libertarian or Green or even write in my name (yes, really), that other candidate isn’t “stealing” your vote from Biden nor are you “spoiling” the election of Trump.
That said, No Labels is not a typical third-party or independent campaign. In fact, it’s not even a campaign yet. Lieberman refers to it as an “insurance policy project” that congressional candidates might use and that could, but won’t necessarily, “be the basis of a campaign by a bipartisan unity ticket that No Labels would offer its ballot access to.”
Who, precisely, is No Labels an “insurance policy” for? It advertises itself as “centrist,” which is code for the existing political and policy establishment.
This isn’t Joe Lieberman’s first “third-party” rodeo.
In 2006, after having occupied one political seat or another since 1970, he lost the Democratic primary for reelection to a fourth term in the U.S. Senate.
So he formed a third party to stay in the race. He named it “Connecticut for Lieberman” — rather a Freudian slip in my opinion. Candidates usually go with something like “Smith for California” to pretend that they’re there to “serve” their states. Lieberman’s opinion was, quite obviously, that the great state of Connecticut existed for the sole purpose of providing him with an office, a paycheck and a pension.
No Labels is pretty much Connecticut for Lieberman writ large. Its purpose is to extort the Democratic Party into sticking to a “centrist” campaign platform: If Joe Biden colors outside those lines in a “progressive” direction to coalition-build with, for example, a less aggressive foreign policy, they’ll run some half-Republican, half-Democrat “centrist” (prime suspect: Joe Manchin of West Virginia) on their line as a “spoiler” candidate.
The way I see it, they’d rather have a Republican in the White House for four years than a Democratic Party that rocks the policy boat or even, horror of horrors, stops providing cushy Capitol Hill sinecures exclusively to the members of an elite club. No wonder, as Corn notices, that “media reports have identified several major donors with GOP ties.”
But their prospective candidate is still exactly as entitled to your vote as any other, which is to say not at all.
Thomas L. Knapp is a director and senior news analyst at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism. He lives in north central Florida.