Sunday, August 14, 2016
One of the most unlikely supporters of Donald Trump is Jon Huntsman. It may not be a name you recall, but ever so briefly he was pitched as the GOP candidate most feared by Obama, as he was considered someone who could appeal to a broad spectrum of voters in a general election. As it turns out, he couldn't even get past New Hampshire because of the "Populist faction," as he called it, within his own party. While this "tribe" didn't get its man in 2012, presumably Rick Santorum, it got Trump in 2016.
Huntsman skips over his relationship with Obama. He served as the administration's Ambassador to China for two years. However, the bitter partisan divide of 2010, which spawned the Tea Party, apparently led Huntsman to reconsider his position within the State Department and he opted out to co-chair a political action group known as No Labels with Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh. They managed to draw a few other former mainstream politicians like Kay Bailey Hutchison and Bill Richardson, who faded from the scene during the hotly contested 2012 election.
This idea of a "middle way" goes back to Henry Adams, who tried to mount a similar movement in the early 20th century to influence politics. He wasn't a great fan of Teddy Roosevelt and couldn't quite bring himself to accept the Democratic alternatives, so he tried to promote candidates that fell in between on the political spectrum.
No Labels tries to influence policy decisions on Capitol Hill, and claims "two victories." They have also been pushing a Problem-Solver initiative that has included none other than Donald Trump at their conventions. When they say "it's a movement that's not going anywhere," they couldn't be more correct, especially if they think Trump is going to be their Problem-Solver in Chief.
However, there is no longer much unity within the ranks as Lieberman has come out in support of Hillary, as had Bill Richardson previously, and Evan Bayh was on the shortlist for Clinton's VP. For all the talk of reaching across party lines, the members of No Labels have pretty much split along party lines when it comes to this election. Despite his "concerns," Huntsman hasn't pulled his endorsement of Trump, citing that the real estate mogul has a "unique opportunity to bring together constituents under the Republican Banner." It is this kind of empty rhetoric that doomed No Labels before it even got off the ground.
Part of the problem, as E.J. Dionne wrote back in 2010, is that No Labels set up a "false equivalence," claiming the two major parties were equally to blame for the current political impasse. The group seems to forget that this whole Tea Party thing arose from Boehner's regurgitated Pledge to America. It was a nice piece of showmanship, but its only purpose was to unite the Republican Party against Barack Obama, literally putting up a brick wall in Congress when the Republicans regained the House.
Unfortunately for Republicans, they failed to kill the Affordable Care Act, which had been the key mandate of the Pledge. Much of the current anger within their ranks arises from this, which is why Congressional leaders now find themselves part of the dwindling "Establishment faction" within the GOP.
I would have thought better of Huntsman. It's not like I expected him to endorse Hillary Clinton, although he worked under her for two years and has complimented her. He could have always taken the middle road with Gary Johnson, who is running a second time as Libertarian, which I would have thought more in line with his world view than Donald Trump.
Ironically, there is still a Crowdpac page set up for Huntsman, which makes you wonder why he and Lieberman didn't team up to form a third party run at the White House. This would have called more attention to their No Labels than would splitting over major party candidates. However, if I read his page correctly his supporters only managed to raise $110, not an overwhelming show of confidence.