Amid the bickering and inflammatory rhetoric that have marked the 2016 presidential campaign, six candidates have vowed to find common ground on the nation's future, according to a bipartisan group formed to bridge the gap between Republicans and Democrats.
No Labels, established in 2010, has put out a call for candidates to adopt a four-goal plan related to job creation, entitlements, the federal budget, and energy. Those who sign on must pledge to promote the plan during the campaign, and if elected, work with both parties in Congress on at least one of the goals within a month of taking office.
Six candidates have so far agreed to take the pledge: Republicans Ben Carson, Chris Christie, John Kasich, Rand Paul, and Donald Trump, and Democrat Martin O'Malley.
The initiative seeks to highlight the need for bipartisan cooperation at a time of deep party divides, the organization’s leaders say.
“We believe at No Labels that, regardless of politics, solutions require collaboration from both parties,” write John Broderick and Renee Plummer, the group’s New Hampshire co-chairs, for the Concord Monitor. “We’ve witnessed decades of single-party attempts that have gone nowhere. It’s time for a change.”
The No Labels agenda, developed following extensive nationwide polling, involves the creation of 25 million jobs over the next 10 years, securing Medicare and Social Security for another 75 years, balancing the federal budget by 2030, and achieving energy independence by 2024.
No Labels leaders will announce the six candidates’ participation on Monday, in Manchester, N.H.
“I’m totally blown away that notwithstanding the ugly talk you find during any primary campaign, you have six very diverse candidates – a bipartisan group – who are interested in a Problem Solvers promise," No Labels co-chairman Jon Huntsman told The Associated Press. "That means they're thinking beyond the primary and thinking about the process that will need to be in place to get some really important things done for the American people."
Not everyone is sold on the so-called Problem Solvers promise, however.
“No Labels wants people to earnestly believe that resolving the biggest and most contentious policy debates on Capitol Hill comes down to everyone making the necessary adjustment in their attitude,” writes political reporter Jason Linkins for The Huffington Post.
The falseness of this promise is a distraction to any serious effort to combat Congress' actual afflictions,” he continues. “It's that much harder to argue for something difficult – like aggressive campaign finance reform – when there's an organization out there promising that all of your bought-and-sold legislators would get lots of stuff done if there were just more steak dinners and bipartisan seating.”
Still, more than 1,000 people showed up at the No Labels convention in Manchester in October. And the group expects interest to rise in the next few weeks as it builds up its campaign in New Hampshire, where the the first presidential primaries will be held Feb. 9.
"People, beginning with our supporters in New Hampshire, will be asking the candidates who didn't make the promise, why haven't you made the promise yet?" Joe Lieberman, the group's other co-chairman, told the AP. "We tried to phrase it in a way that was broadly acceptable and that nobody would feel that they were doing anything particularly controversial by accepting these national goals that are supported so overwhelmingly by the people of New Hampshire and throughout the country."