Prop Zero
The Starting Point for Commentary and Coverage of California Politics

Beware of Politicians Who Don't Come With Labels



    W YORK, NY - DECEMBER 13: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, seen on a monitor, speaks at the launch of the unaffiliated political organization known as No Labels December 13, 2010 at Columbia University in New York City. The event features numerous politicians, journalists and citizens in a series of panels which address some of the most intractable political issues in America. Led by Republican political consultant Mark McKinnon, Democratic consultant Kiki McLean, political advisor Nancy Jacobson and CNN contributor John Avlon, the group looks to find solutions to problems partly by getting politicians to put aside their partisan behavior in order to find common ground. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

    Would you buy and consume an over-the-counter medicine without reading the label? Probably not. The same is true with politicians.

    Which is why even California independent voters -- known as "Decline to States" (one of them your blogger) -- should be a little wary of politicians who embrace "no labels."

    But that's what Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other politicians are doing as they launch a new political group called "No Labels." It's for moderates. The ringleader is New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

    Pragmatic and compromise are important values. And partisanship is a problem in America. But a politics without labels isn't a healthy politics. And moderation isn't a panacea. California has been led by a steady stream of politically moderate governors -- and the state is a dysfunctional mess. Fixing governance is not a question of electing more moderates -- it's a question of fixing structures and governance, as Ross Douthat argues effectively in Monday's New York Times.

    Party and ideological labels are often all that voters know about politicians. Without such labels, voters would be even more clueless than they already are. If anything, what our politics need are not fewer labels -- but more and better labels, which convey to voters what policies politicians are likely to pursue.