As No Labels grows in strength, criticism from both the left and the right is increasing. Some argue that we need more partisanship, not less, and thus the No Labels approach is not the solution to the gridlock that is plaguing our government. I hear both liberals and conservatives claim that we need to stick up for what we believe in, and that non-partisanship will just lead us all to sacrifice our core principles.
It is a false premise to argue that partisanship is necessary in order for us to fight for the causes we believe in. Partisanship is defined as "being committed to a political party", which has resulted in party policies being supported whether good or bad; right or wrong, leading to reluctance in recognizing the possibility that a position taken by any other party could actually be reasonable and sound.
It is this blind allegiance to party that No Labels refers to when they refer to partisanship, and it is this blind allegiance to party that is the cause of much of the gridlock that exists in Washington today.
Today partisan agendas come first, even if that excludes any possibility of working toward a common goal that serves the common good. This should not be confused with having core values and principles that ought not to be compromised.
What No Labels wants is a process of governance based on problem-solving methods that employ deductive reasoning. That means searching for solutions based on reason, logic and inquiry wherein a conclusion follows from a set of premises; not the other way around. This is not inconsistent with the understanding that core beliefs and principles are an essential component of the political process. So often today emotions take over, preventing real problem-solving. Emotions based on fear, prejudice, and an unwillingness to listen to people with different viewpoints, so often infects the political process with uncivil language and "a priori" reasoning process designed to manipulate the data in order to prove one's own bias and predetermined conclusions. This "belief bias" results in a tendency to either blindly endorse or discard information regardless of its potential merit.
It is time that "we the people" elect representatives who understand good ideas are good ideas no matter which party initiates them, and bad ideas are bad ideas no matter which party initiates them. The same holds true for the growing lack of civility, insidious corruption, and unwillingness to assume responsibility for mistakes. Bad behavior is bad behavior no matter which party the behavior stems from.
We all have personal biases. We all have convictions. Understanding how our biases and convictions influence our decisions in matters of governance is quite different from allowing our emotions and prejudices to control our thinking, and thus lead us into making unproductive and shortsighted decisions.
Every day our decisions are affected by our biases; they come into play with every decision we make and every action we take. The key for sound reasoning and sound governance is to recognize our own biases, question them regularly and responsibly, and remain aware of their potentially detrimental consequences.
Our citizenry and our elected officials must recognize the tendency we all possess of relying heavily on only that information that confirms something we already believe. We generally see data that supports what we already know, so if you are politically conservative, chances are that you prefer the information you get from Fox News, and if you are liberal you would probably be more comfortable consuming your news from CNN or the New York Times.
We need bold and strong convictions. But we must also be aware of our own biases. We need people with a passion to fight for what they believe is right, but that passion needs to be tempered by reason and sound thinking. The result just might be a citizenry who elect leaders who put country before party.
One of our founding fathers, James Madison, wrote extensively in the Federalist papers about the dangers of partisanship. Madison was well aware that "causes of faction are sown in the nature of man." He worried that humankind's natural inclination to accept the "vicious arts", (a reference he made to the rhetoric that politicians use to incite partisanship), would imperil our democracy.
And today many Americans fear the same thing. We fear that partisanship fueled by the political parties will prevent us from intelligently addressing and solving the many problems that face this great nation of citizens who have more in common with one another than we have irreconcilable differences.