One Feminist's Take on the No Labels Launch: Part 1

One of my favorite scenes from "The West Wing" is from the episode "Angel Maintenance." In it Matt McCoy plays a moderate Republican Congressman who is working with Josh on a bill. He goes off on Josh and I believe Toby (no, I'm not digging out the DVDs on this one) about how offended he is that the Democrats are targeting him in the upcoming election. He outlines in a very Yoda way that by pushing him, a moderate, out of office only opens the door for a far more conservative candidate to replace him or for him to have to go hard right to keep his seat.

It is a favorite because it was one of many moments that really stuck with me and made me consider how I view moderates. Not only that, but to consider the physics of politics. What happens those of us on the left push for others to be just as left? Some of them join us. Others run hard right.

As friends & long time readers know, I'm not a good Democrat. I don't send money to the party, DCCC, DSCC or local Dem groups. As a feminist I am hugely disappointed in how often the party selects men to go up against women Dems in primaries. I am also hugely disappointed in the notion of Blue Dog Democrats who sit with the Dems, but often vote against issues, like choice, that are central to being a Democrat. I also live in Chicago and not all Democrats are "good" Democrats.

Which brings me to our last election. I publicly supported the Democrat Forrest Claypool, who ran as an independent, for County Assessor. The Democratic candidate Joe Berrios won. What did Scott Cisek, Director of Cook County, tweet the next day?

Yes, it was a fierce campaign and yes, I was disappointed the next day, but this tweet fits right into how I've felt the party has been run. "Good Democrats" tow the party line. "Bad Democrats" think and act on their own convictions.

All that is why I attended the No Labels launch in New York on Monday.

I received the invitation to attend through The White House Project. I've attended a training in 2007 and really enjoyed it. Not to mention that I didn't get to finish the training in 2007 due to horrible weather. So an invitation "from Marie Wilson" + event in NYC + a chance to finish a training + the event happened after the semester was over and BAM! I was in. Yup, it was like I was Luke headed back to Dagobah.

So on Sunday I sat in a room with 100 other women who have run for office, want to run for office or want to help other women run for office talking about the dire situation that our country finds itself in. There was a huge theme of women as collaborators, willing to find common ground and great communicators. Yes, lots of gender essentialism.

But it was a feeling that appeared to be agreed upon by all the women in the room. It was confirmed by mom after mom talking about how they have to find common ground between their kids. I shared the fact that Tony & I have to compromise on our parenting decisions. 90-95% of our parenting ideas are agreed upon, it's that last bit that requires compromise. A woman at my table said, "That's just like our country!"

Lisa Borders, one of the trainers, told us that the day after she lost her bid to be mayor of Atlanta the only call she received from politicos was from a lone Republican. Lisa is a Democrat.

Kiki McLean kept talking about wanting to make her party (the Dems) stronger by pushing them to reach across the aisle and backing up elected officials (of all parties) when they do work towards bipartisan solutions. She gives props on the No Labels blog to Tom Coburn for not taking the bait and calling President Obama names.

While one woman did ask how No Labels would handle issues like abortion and the death penalty, most of the day was focused on process.

Process such as going into a room to find common ground, not enter a discussion over a bill or issue "hoping that the other side loses." Process such as stop calling each other names like "hijackers" and "socialists."

I am a progressive pro-choice Latina mom. I like my labels. But this room of women made me question if I need to cling so tightly to them.

I went to bed on Saturday, exhausted and eager to see what Monday would bring.