I am a student of Al From, Bill Galston, and Bill Clinton, having worked for Al at the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) in the 1990s and on Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. They taught me that my highest loyalty should be to my core principles — and that to be a true progressive one must be open to innovation as to how those principles are advanced.
They also taught me that political change requires tremendous courage, because defenders of the status quo will use every tool available to maintain power.
The DLC was maligned and misrepresented in its day because it dared challenge a party orthodoxy that had clearly been rejected by American voters. It held its ground and won. As a result, President Clinton oversaw the longest economic expansion in American history, lowest unemployment rate in 30 years, lowest crime rate in 26 years, lowest poverty rate in 20 years, and converted the largest budget deficit in American history to the largest surplus.
The attacks against political change today are reminiscent of those against the DLC in its early days. Critics have, outrageously, called No Labels a Trump Super PAC — a lie intended to shut down conversation around its efforts to give voice to the majority of Americans who want something different than what is being offered by the right and the left.
The false choices, scare tactics and bullying only reinforce to the exhausted commonsense majority that the extremes have zero tolerance for anyone who doesn’t think exactly like they do. Only 100 percent adherence to their orthodoxy is acceptable, and instead of using persuasion to achieve consensus, they take to social media to scare and fundraise. The irony is that the nation was founded by people who didn’t agree on anything except the principle of liberty. Group think is the most Un-American concept of all.
I’ve been a part, in one way or another, of working to give voice to the political center my entire professional career. I am dismayed that an ideology with a track record like ours and the support of a majority of voters is not better represented in modern politics. I, for one, accept this for what it means: in the spirit of my New Democratic forefathers, it’s time to try a different approach.
I say to my long-standing friends and colleagues in the Democratic Party: The vast majority of voters are clear in their message to us all — listen to them. I’m not suggesting you must support No Labels. But aggressively working to deny choices to the American people is a losing position — I learned that from Bill Galston. Telling voters that they don’t want what they want is a losing position — I learned that from Al From.
Alternatively, challenging the failed status quo to bring hope and opportunity to the American people when they need it most is messy and painful, but necessary for progress and liberty. I learned that from Bill Clinton.
To take this position and do so publicly comes with tremendous loss for me personally. But I truly believe that the future of our republic depends on our ability to overcome the politics of performance and polarization. This is a great nation, and it deserves better. I am called to do my part.
Holly Page is a co-founder of No Labels, was the Executive Vice President of the DLC, worked on the 1992 Clinton for President Campaign, and was until recently a strategic advisor to Third Way.