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Groups backing 'radical center' praise Obama, Congress -- so far

November 08, 2012|By James Rainey
  • House Speaker John A. Boehner, left, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid talk in September during a remembrance ceremony marking the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Centrists are urging them to move away from the hyper-partisanship that has hobbled Congress
House Speaker John A. Boehner, left, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid… (Alex Brandon / Associated…)

Voting machines have barely cooled and postmortems flow forth, but the bobbing and weaving over governing has begun in Washington. Just for starters, how will the government avoid the “fiscal cliff” and can it finally agree on how to deal with immigrants who have come to the country illegally?

The most partisan voices tend to dominate these discussions, but a group of moderates took heart Thursday in some of the conciliatory notes coming from the White House and Congress. The group No Labels liked what it was hearing so much, in fact, that it urged Americans to send “attaboy” messages to President Obama, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

“Right now, our leaders need to know that we support them -- and that we expect their noble words to translate into real action,” said Mark McKinnon, the former ad man for President George W. Bush who is a founder of the moderate nonprofit group. “Join No Labels today to show them that we won’t tolerate the same hyper-partisanship that’s consumed Washington for too long. We can’t afford to wait -- add your name right away.”

The email includes a link for Americans to add their names to the message.

“This is their chance to lead and to restore confidence in the future of our country by reaching across the aisle,” McKinnon’s email adds. “With a Democratic president and Senate and a Republican House, neither party has enough power to get everything they want. But both have enough power to obstruct the other side.”

No Labels formed in late 2010, in part to counter what it saw as the hyper-partisanship inflamed by the tea party movement on the right. Among those joining McKinnon in forming the group was Nancy Jacobson, a major Democratic fundraiser married to pollster Mark Penn.

Other Washington groups, like the Third Way think tank, have tried to amplify the voice of the “radical center” to counter what they see as the dominance of more ideological groups.

The biggest challenge for the moderates will be in finding ways to keep the pressure on Democrats and Republicans. Email campaigns can be persuasive around the margins. But on make-or-break issues like taxation, House members, in particular, fear political challenges from the ideological poles, not from the center. It has been safer for Democrats and Republicans not to stray too far from their respective caucuses.

No Labels is hoping that the fiscal cliff — an agreement that would enforce wide-ranging tax increases and spending cuts in the new year if Congress does not act — will shake both lawmakers and the president from business as usual. Projections have shown that the average U.S. household would pay as much as $3,500 more a year if the tax cuts first imposed by President George W. Bush were allowed to expire. President Obama wants to keep the tax cuts for all but the wealthiest Americans — families that make more than $250,000 a year.

Many economists and business leaders have predicted that a broader tax increase for most Americans would throw the U.S. economy back into recession. That threat should be enough to get Washington to act. But McKinnon & Co. said the emails won’t hurt; just as a friendly reminder to do the right thing.

James.rainey@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimesrainey

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