I recently received an email from former Congressman Joe Cunningham inviting me to get involved in the “No Labels” movement to create a 2024 Presidential ticket that would include Democratic and Republican running mates. I also read his recent column in The Post and Courier making his argument for the idea. Both of those things prompted me to share a few thoughts.
I voted for Mr. Cunningham and I respect his opinion. I hope that he’ll respect mine, because I believe his “No Labels” presidential ticket proposal is an incredibly bad idea.
Mr. Cunningham’s column argument is primarily based on a recent ABC News-Washington Post poll that shows President Joe Biden losing to Donald Trump. Experience has taught me that there’s a difference between a single provocative poll result and an identifiable trend.
Polls can be unreliable — as were the 2016 polls that showed Hillary Clinton defeating Donald Trump — and polls often exclude the opinions of broad cultural swaths of America.
I fielded plenty of calls in 2019 from national media asking me whether Joe Biden should withdraw from the Democratic presidential primary race after struggling in the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries. My response was “wait until South Carolina speaks.” The rest is history.
The 2019 South Carolina primary result also points to something that I encourage Mr. Cunningham to consider. He said in his column that “Democrats are failing to offer an alternative that appeals to the majority of voters who crave change and are fed up with the extremes on both sides” and makes the case for appealing to moderate voters. His noble assertion ignores today’s political reality.
By Mr. Cunningham’s logic, there’s a significant group of Republicans and conservative independents who would find affinity with what would basically be a third-party alternative. If they do exist, they need to openly question and condemn Donald Trump’s demagoguery. That’s not happening.
He also asserted that by that single poll’s results, Mr. Trump can win without anyone’s help. That didn’t happen in 2020 or in 2022 when most of his candidates crashed and burned and the predicted “red wave” turned out to be a trickle.
Mr. Trump and the GOP’s election victories have come as a result of something that Republicans do well — motivating and turning out their base of voters, even if that motivation is often laced with fear and bigotry.
Too many Democratic candidates focus on winning over voters who seldom vote their way while assuming their base will automatically turn out. They’re right in assuming that most in their base will vote Democratic, but they often fail to realize that without motivating their base, many of them will simply opt to stay home.
That’s especially true when Democrats ignore and insult their base. Mr. Cunningham did that in his last campaign, when he tailored his campaign to those he met at craft brewery events but seldom showed up at Black community events. He also did so in his recent column, when he referred to Vice-President Kamala Harris — who is highly admired and respected by the Democratic base – as “woefully unpopular.”
Mr. Cunningham noted that in his farewell speech to the House of Representatives, he spoke of the need for us to have bipartisan cooperation and to “sit down and listen to each other.” He also noted that he took that same message home to South Carolina as the 2022 Democratic candidate for governor.
For the record, Republican Henry McMaster was elected governor in 2022 by the largest percentage in decades and many Democratic incumbents and new candidates lost their races as they rode Mr. Cunningham’s political “coattails.”
A friend of mine voted for Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader in a very close 2000 Presidential election as what he called a “vote of conscience.” Mr. Nader didn’t win, but he drew votes away from Al Gore and gave us George W. Bush, who put John Roberts and Samuel Alito on a U.S. Supreme Court that has gutted the Voting Rights Act and Roe v. Wade and has diminished our civil liberties.
We don’t need to make the same mistake in 2024 with a No Labels “vote of conscience.” We need a major party president who will preserve the republic and give life to the American pledge of “liberty and justice for all.”
The Rev. Joseph A. Darby is pastor of Nichols Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
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