The following is a rough transcript which has not been revised by The Jim Rutt Show or Ryan Clancy. Please check with us before using any quotations from this transcript. Thank you.
Jim: Today’s guest is Ryan Clancy. Ryan is the chief strategist for No Labels. We’ll talk in a minute about what No Labels is. You can learn more about him by the way at nolabels.org. And as always, you can find that link on our episode page at jimruttshow.com. Welcome, Ryan.
Ryan: Thanks, Jim, for having me.
Jim: Yeah, this should be great. Ryan, this is more or less off as LinkedIn, is a senior strategist with almost 20 years of experience advising leaders and companies. He’s been a speech writer, a spokesperson, and a storytelling partner for some of the world’s most respected leaders and organizations. Writing for then US Vice President Joe Biden, Sir Elton John, that we’re Americans, we don’t say sir. So Elton John, Shaquille O’Neal, yes, he should be a sir by the way.
And when you talk to him, I would definitely call him sir. He’s a big dude, right? And he’s also developed corporate narratives, executive positioning plans for Fortune 500 companies and CEOs, investment memos for startup companies, and lots of other cool stuff. So he’s an experienced guy. So anyway, we’re gonna talk today about nolabels and particularly about their insurance policy. And this will be the second of three episodes about nolabels.
It hasn’t been published when I’m recording this, but it will be out before this one is published. A conversation with Matt Bennett from Third Way. He’s strongly against nolabels. We had a good discussion slash argument about that. Today we have Ryan Clancy from No Labels Itself. And in the first early in November, we’ll be doing an episode with Owen Paepke, who’s written a very interesting book, which I have read called The Purple Presidency.
Well, I don’t think he’s officially associated with nolabels. He makes the case for it pretty damn well. And I gotta say, he actually makes the sensible, centrist position sound sexy. So I recommend that book highly, by the way. So anyway, that’s the context. And I’m really happy to have somebody from No Labels themselves tell us about what they do and why they are setting up potentially to run candidates in the 2024 election. Before we do that though, let’s give a minute on what is No Labels and a little bit about its history.
Ryan: Sure. No Labels have been around for about 14 years now. It really started right around when the Tea Party movement was cresting. And I think for a lot of people, that’s the moment, we recognized our politics, politics ain’t been big, as the old saying in America, it’s always been kind of rough and tumble, but things started to change at that point. We were starting to lose the capacity to talk to one another, work with one another.
So where we focus most of our attention this last decade is trying to create a bipartisan governing coalition in Congress. These very organized groups exist on the hill, like the Progressive Caucus, that’s the left wing members. You got the Freedom Caucus, that’s the right wing members. Nobody had ever came along and organized anything in between them. So we were really the force behind this group called the Problem Solvers Caucus, which has got about 60 members evenly divided between the parties. And then we kind of connected them with a bipartisan group of senators.
And it’s dysfunctional, as Washington has been these last couple of years, and it has been very dysfunctional. To the extent anything notable has gotten done, like the bipartisan infrastructure bill, that big semiconductor bill of the past to kind of keep us ahead of China. It was very much our people in the middle of that effort, and No Lables did a lot to elevate them, to build support for them across the country. And that work is continuing. So No Lables is still very focused on trying to build up bipartisan leaders in Congress. But about two years ago, we started planning for, as you noted, this possibility of an independent unity presidential ticket in 2020-24.
Jim: Why did you do that? What got you to decide that this was the time to start thinking seriously about that?
Ryan: First of all, we just started to get a lot of incoming questions from our members across the country. They were looking ahead at 2024, and they just looked like they didn’t like what they saw coming down the pike. They saw a very high prospect. They were gonna get a rematch, like the sequel No One Wants to See.
Caddy Shack II was coming down the pike, and they didn’t want any part of it. So that was one. The other thing is, I think, is important as we recognize our congressional work is. Ironically, that infrastructure bill, which is a big achievement, showed a little bit the limits of just working within Congress, because that bill was so hard to pass. Many of the members, especially those on the Republican side, who voted for it, got primaried out of a job.
That is not supposed to be that hard. Infrastructure is roads and bridges. Every politician likes to cut a ribbon in front of, you know, some new bridge or something. But that was just a apocalyptic fight. And if that’s gonna be that hard, then how are we ever gonna get to deal with immigration or any of these other issues that we know are contentious for a reason? And we started to think, you know, we have to have in this country a fundamentally different conversation than the one we’re having.
We really need to shift the dynamics. And that really only happens in the context of a presidential race. That is how most Americans think about and engage with politics. And we thought, you know, let’s see if we can’t give a voice to the country’s common sense majority. That was really the genesis of this.
Jim: Cool. Regular listeners know I personally don’t align with either Team Red or Team Blue and look for many opportunities to make fun of both of them, which there are plenty. Though I have tended since 1992 to vote for Team Blue quite a bit more often than Team Red, because Team Red often seems just nuts. I mean, look at the current speaker fight. Jim Jordan, speaker of the house, taking the place of Tip O’Neill in the history, Sam Rayburn, other great speakers.
Tim, Jim Jordan, what the hell? All right, hopefully it won’t happen, but it could. So I’m a bit more on the blue side if you forced me to be projected. But in reality, I’m a man without a party. For instance, I’m very strong for abortion rights and gay rights. But I think there’s a whole bunch of extreme silliness associated with the outer edge of the trans issue. I’m not afraid to say so. I’m also very strongly for gun rights, right? So what party do I belong in?
Neither party, right? Climate change, I believe there really is a climate emergency, but I also back nuclear and think the trajectory has to be realistic. Not the nutty kind of stuff put out there by Bernie or AOC. Bernie in 2020 said we’re gonna get totally off non-renewables for transportation, electricity generation by 2030. I actually had been a Bernie supporter in 2016, but I read that and I go, wait a minute, that’s impossible. So I talked to some of the experts I know, and they said, yeah, that’s impossible. I said, well, suppose Bernie turned out to be Stalin. Could Stalin have done it by 2030?
And they said, no. One guy, a professor at Harvard, probably one of the most knowledgeable people I know about climate and the technology around it. He had a very clever answer. He said, yeah, to do what they said by 2030, it was only one political figure in history that could have pulled that off, and that was Pol Pot.
If you wanna kill 40% of the population, reduce the GDP by 80%, yeah, you could get us off non-renewables by 2030, but otherwise it’s a ridiculous policy. So what party do I belong to? Neither of them. Alt right, nativists and racists, I hate those sons of bitches, right? I’ll tell them off to their fucking faces, right? On the other hand, I believe they have the full right to free speech, including on college campuses, right? So what party do I belong to?
You know, hate nativists, but believe they ought to have the right to speak, right? So I’m in alignment in theory that there’s something very broken with our politics right now that a person like me, totally sensible guy like myself, I mean, who gets more sensible than good old Jim Rutt? Doesn’t have an obvious party. And of course, as a systems guy and a complexity science guy, I look at our institutional structures, things like partisan primaries, right? That produce more and more and more polarization, particularly when we don’t have an external enemy.
When we had the Soviet Union threatening us, it forced the two parties to cooperate more, now that we’re still the big kid on the block, at least for another few more years, the fundamental dynamics of our institutions have pushed our parties further and further apart. And of course, this all comes to its apiotheists, whatever the fuck that word is, high point with the election of Trump. I mean, come on, Trump’s an impossible douchebag, let’s be honest. I would never vote for him under any circumstances.
And in fact, in 2016, I said publicly, I would vote for Saddam Hussein ahead of Donald Trump and Saddam Hussein was dead at the time, right? He’s just a character matters. I’ve probably hired a thousand people in my life, my various companies, and he is a no good rotten son of a bitch and I would never, ever, ever, ever vote for him. And the fact that he would be president of the United States of all things. And then after the buckle of a job he did, the craziness around lying about the results of the election, et cetera. And then he’s still the leading candidate, tells me that, Jesus, our politics is utterly broken. And on the other hand, you got AOC and other whack jobs on the Democrat side.
They’re not probably quite as crazy, but there’s a fringe out there, 10 or 15% of them that are just as crazy as the 22% of Republicans. So it seems like this is the time, there’s room in the middle.
Ryan: There is, Jim. A lot of what you just described, where you kind of have these positions that don’t fit neatly into one bucket or the other, like that’s how most people are. You know, Ed Koch, who’s the mayor of New York, he had this great quote where he said, you know, if there’s like 12 issues and you agree with me on nine of them, then vote for me. And if you agree with me on all 12, then go see a psychiatrist.
Jim: Ha ha ha, great line.
Ryan: You’re pro-gun rights, but you’re concerned about climate change. Who’s there for you?
There’s nobody there for you. And there’s a lot of people like that. What happens is because the extremes have such a significant influence on both sides, particularly in the primaries as you noted, what they do is they force the politicians to embrace either really reckless or extreme or really impractical ideas. I mean, you talk about, it’s top of mind, because I just had to write about it for our common sense policy booklet.
If you really take a look at what it takes to just power this country, we’re not getting rid of fossil fuels anytime soon. Unless you want to get rid of the fertilizers the world needs to grow its food, the plastics that we put everything in, we need to accelerate down the path and do a lot cleaner energy and certainly nuclear has to be a part of that. But to think we’re going to be done with them in a couple of years, that’s reckless. You’re going to hurt people.
Jim: As I said, that’s Pol Pot, right? There’s no practical way to get to eliminate fossil fuels anytime before about 2050 and if we executed flawlessly it’ll happen by 2050 and people that tell you that’s gonna happen in 2030 or 2035 They’re just lying right it’s just bullshit, right? So but there’s one political party that says that the other political party has a candidate holds his hand up on stage and says Climate change is a hoax, right? So what the hell?
All right, let’s move on. So when I started thinking about this I came up with a game theory way of thinking about it regular listeners know we often like to think in game theory terms. Which is I’m gonna declare from the Cathedral that Biden is a minus 20 in game theory language rather not have Biden. You know, I’m not that different from him policy-wise, but he’s just too damn old and frankly he was a mediocrity his whole career and We could certainly do better and Harris scares the hell out of me particularly as the vice president to a 85 86 year old guy. Trump, I gotta say is a minus 100, right? I really really don’t want Trump again. We survived one term of Trump James Madison was a brilliant guy, right?
There wasn’t that much that Trump could do but a second term of Trump particularly when he doesn’t make the mistake of bringing adults into his cabinet and into his presidential West Wing team and brings in nutbags from top to bottom God knows what could happen. So that’s a minus hundred. That’s really bad. And that let’s imagine no labels put together say cinema and Hogan as a team I’m gonna give that a plus 20 for the reasons that we’ll probably get into however. This is the game theory. How do you reach plausibly for the plus 20 while making sure you don’t get the booby prize of minus a hundred?
Jim: i.e. Trump 2 if there’s any framing for this, that’s it
Ryan: Yeah, I think a lot of people have that same kind of thinking which is they’re intrigued by the possibility of this They want better choices than we’re likely to get but they’re concerned about the unintended consequences And one of the things we just really strongly disagree with, is there is this narrative out there as if it’s like a cosmic law of the universe That if an independent were to run one it could only spoil and two it could only spoil in a way that favors Trump and that’s just not true.
I’ll give you a couple reasons why so first of all the examples that a lot of people reach for is they’ll say well You know Jill Stein ruined it for Hillary in 2016 or Ralph Nader ruined it for Gore in 2000 Well, they may well have but they were left-wing protest candidates. So any vote for them was a vote that was probably otherwise going to go to the Democrat, No labels will never put up a ticket like that that would be one. The second thing is We actually tested just about a month ago for the first time We looked at a no labels ticket and in this survey.
It was 10,000 registered voters the top eight swing states. We asked people how they would react to a no labels ticket if it were headed by somebody who was known more as a Republican or somebody who’s known more as a Democrat. If there was a Republican atop the ticket one it performed better So just did better on an absolute basis in those eight states And it pulled more out of Trump’s collar than Biden in seven out of those eight states The only exception was North Carolina and this was beyond the margin of error. This was a significant pull from Trump. So are there versions of independent candidacies that could disproportionately hurt Biden and help Trump absolutely. But that is not the kind of candidacy that we’re gonna put forward And so for anybody to sit here and say we know on a level of absolute certainty that an independent could only hurt by that is just not true.
Jim: Now I’m hearing you say that you will probably nominate a Republican at the top of your ticket?
Ryan: So we are gonna release in the next couple weeks the process for how we’d actually get to nominate a ticket. That process is not just gonna be a couple people in a room. It’s gonna be a more open and transparent process so who ultimately ends up atop the ticket, you know, is not gonna be for me or you know any one person at no labels to say. But what I will say is you know all the people who make this decision. They’re gonna have access to all the data on the best path to victory on the implications of that choice And then we’ll go from there. Our endgame here is Sometime after Super Tuesday, we’re gonna have a convention in Dallas.
We’re still just locking down the exact date. And that’s the moment where we’ll determine one are we going forward and then two who’s on the ticket. And Jim I’d make one final point and a lot of people don’t know this. So no labels is the biggest thing we’re doing is working to get on the ballot across the country. So that’s really the table stakes if you don’t get on the ballot all of this is just kind of an academic, discussion and we’re making great progress. We’re on the ballot in 12 states. We’ll be on the ballot and operating in 27 by the end of the year.
And it’s important to know that’s as many as we can be on some states don’t even let you go until next year. But when no labels puts up our ticket if we do next spring, we retain control of our ballot. Here’s what I’m getting at. It got to be next spring and we thought an independent ticket looked really promising for any number of reasons and we put one up and then it goes out there and it goes over like a lead balloon the public doesn’t like it. It is looking like a spoiler.
Well into July we have the ability to unilaterally pull the ticket down and say, you know what? We’re not filling it with a candidate because we don’t see a path to victory. So there’s this sense that you know from you mentioned third way earlier that this can only go, you know one way It can only help Trump. It’s reckless and our whole point is we’ve got a lot of safeguards in place to make sure that if we make this decision, it’s viable And if we put up a ticket and it’s not going anywhere we pull it down because we don’t want to be a spoiler.
Jim: Wasn’t there recently a case in Arizona where the courts ruled that anybody can run on the no labels line something like that?
Ryan: Yes, they can’t that’s why we have party officers in the state running the respective local organizations there and our lawyers have been very clear this is one we’re gonna win. People cannot just hijack the no labels ballot and decide they want to run for president or want to run for a different office.
Jim: Yeah, I wonder is Lyndon Larouche still around I don’t know he would probably like to run again if he’s not dead, but he’s probably dead.
Ryan: I remember his people handing out the pamphlets.
Jim: Exactly. All right, let’s go back to some of the things you actually say on your website I think this is one of the most important We will only run under the proper environmental conditions which must be met for us to proceed. There’s two parts of that. What are the proper environmental conditions in the abstract then perhaps even more importantly epistemologically. How do you measure whether that theoretical environment is real.
Ryan: Yeah, so we all should be skeptical of of any one poll for a reason we know like, you know polls have gotten lots of things wrong So there’s a couple data points you’re looking at it starts with what are the people think in the major party nominees? So are they as unpopular as they are today? That’d be number one number two are americans continuing to be really pessimistic about the future of the country and their opinions of their choices? I mean that that could change six months from now or the parties could wise up and actually put forward candidates Most americans want to vote for and that scenario we probably wouldn’t put up a ticket. But the key question we’ve been asking Jim For over almost two years now is we’ve been asking people if it were trump biden and a moderate independent candidate Would you be open to voting for the moderate independent candidate?
And when we first asked that question? 59% said yes when we recently asked that question 63% said yes. Now the reason that’s so significant to us is we know if 63% of people say i’m open to voting for a moderate independent. It doesn’t mean they’re going to do it. One they’re just saying i’m open to it. Two there’s a lot of people who will say yeah, i’m for the idea of a moderate independent But then you actually name somebody and they say yeah, but not that person. But that is baked into our assumptions that that you’re never reaching that ceiling But in a multi candidate race you don’t have to. Remember every state except for main in nebraska, which awards some of its electoral votes by district everybody else’s winter take all so if you were in a three-way race in Texas and You get you know 36 percent any other candidate get 30 something and 20 something you get 100 of texas’s electoral votes.
Jim: And make it even more interesting this year it looks like we’ll be about five candidates running or could be I mean you got Cornel West I don’t know if that’ll actually happen you got that goof Robert f. Kennedy jr. He’ll get some votes right so this thing’s going to be quite complicated.
Ryan: It is but you know Jim there’s something more fundamental here. I suspect we will have our numbers and our and we’ll make our argument for the next six months and people who don’t like this effort will do the same thing. I think the single biggest thing that they’re getting wrong is their basic position is the way to fix our democracy is to have less democracy. You know both parties there’s all this pressure building up in the system people are so desperate for something better and the response of the two major parties has not been well, let’s give an outlet for that frustration. Instead what happened is if you look at what’s happening on the republican side. A lot of the state republican parties have changed their delegate selection rules to make it easier for trump to get the nomination because they’ve changed it to winner take all instead of proportion. On the democratic side, they won’t have primaries.
Jim: They won’t have debates.
Ryan: They won’t have debates. Right, and so why does it surprise anybody when there’s this much demand for something more choices? That the political system refuses to give the public that the public says well, I’m going to get it from something else.
Jim: Well, if you assume that people are self serving which is a good place to start. Of course the leaders of the parties want to lock in the two party system. We all know that we have plenty of room in institutional design to do something quite different, for instance, I do like that some states are now going to open or jungle primaries and then rank choice voting for the final four that would produce institutional drive towards consensus rather than our current system which has institutional drive towards extreme. We got the interesting case of a moderate democrat getting elected to congress from Alaska. A pretty red state, right?
Ryan: Yeah, exactly.
Jim: Because the republicans made the mistake of running a real nutso Trumper. And I think they had two of them. We won extreme nutso one moderate nutso and the oderate democrat snuck in. So the parties benefit from our institutional structures So of course they’re going to fight, you know, just like the democrats are fighting to keep you guys off the balance by you know doing all kinds of crazy things.
Ryan: And you know what, Jim? That’s exactly what we expected. We’re not naive. We didn’t expect that, you know, the party establishments were just going to welcome us in with open arms. Hey, yay, more competition. Come on in. We knew they weren’t going to like it. But here’s what they can’t do, at least credibly. Don’t sit there and talk about how you’re protecting our democracy. You are protecting your turf.
They’re two very different things. You can disagree with this plan, and that’s OK. But like, spare me the I’m protecting democracy stuff. In fact, you’re damaging it because you’re working off the assumption that stymying what Americans want and limiting their choices is going to lead to a good outcome, and it isn’t.
Jim: So let’s go back to exit the question I actually asked about the proper environmental conditions. Suppose that we’re the Dems wise up and nominate Gretchen Whitmer, Trump chokes on a chicken bone, and the Republicans end up nominating Nikki Haley. Is that a case where you probably don’t go forward?
Ryan: Yeah, and I’ll tell you why. So one of the interesting things, one of the reasons Trump is the unique variable in this race is, so some people have said, hey, look, we like the idea of this third option, but not this election. Like, wait to another election where we have better choice, where if you choose wrong, the fallout isn’t as bad.
And I understand that. But the flip side of that is, because the two major party nominees are considered so poor by the public, that’s why there is an opening. So one of the things we have found in our polling and modeling is there’s a really big universe of Republican voters, like 20 million of them, that you could characterize as like Trump’s policies, but don’t like Trump and don’t want to vote for it.
Jim: I know a lot of people like that. In fact, most of my family is like that, right? But they probably will vote for him if the alternative is Biden.
Ryan: Yeah, well, the other thing it means, though, is for those people, those like Trump policies, but don’t like Trump, are people that are open to a no-label’s ticket. But if it’s not Trump, if it’s Nikki Haley or Tim Scott, or even like DeSantis, basically anybody else, those Republicans will probably go home. They will vote for who their party’s nominee is, and that will close off the gap for a no-label’s ticket. So Jim, you asked this question, environmental conditions. Here’s a good example.
Today, 63% of the public says we are open to voting for a moderate independent. If we got to this point in early spring 2004, and that 63% number is 40%, that would make you really hesitant to go forward. Because what that tells you is your ceiling is now uncomfortably low. If you lose just a couple points worth of those open to people, you can’t win. Whereas if your ceiling is 63, you can lose a lot of those people, and you can still win.
Jim: And that does bring us to a little bit of the history of third parties, right? Perot being probably the most significant one we had. And that was a case that you described where the risks were relatively low. Neither Clinton nor H.W. Bush were crazy. They were both center right and a center left. Truthfully, Clinton was a center right also, but he ran as a Democrat. So the downside was pretty low to anybody. So Perot did get a lot of interest until he kind of went nuts and started talking about his dropped out because of North Koreans and black pajamas running across his daughter’s backyard, et cetera. In fact, I supported Perot until he did that.
And then he came back, and I was just done with it. But he still got, what, 20% of the vote, right? That was kind of a weird anomalous thing, because in some sense, it was the lowest risk situation. He had one or two specific issues, fiscal discipline and anti-NAFTA. So he had a fairly simplistic platform, and he had relatively no risk alternatives, but he still only got 19% of the vote.
But that’s probably because he went nuts. He could have won. But on the flip side, if you look at other third party candidates since then, historically, they poll much higher than they finish. Gary Johnson, would he poll like 6% at one point running as a libertarian candidate? And he ended up with the usual 1% and change, I think. So talk to me a little bit about the idea of third parties always shrink. Sure.
Ryan: Sure. Well, look, Perot in June of 92, he was leading. One poll, he had 39%, Bush had 31% and Clinton had 25%. And then as you noted, he went kind of crazy, and he did some odd things over that summer. Let’s put it that way. And then he got out of the race, and then he came back in, and it was kind of too late. But the two things that are different today relative to them is to your point, Jim, he was running against two relatively center-right, center-left alternatives.
There weren’t many Americans at the time who were saying, I’m moving to Canada if George H.W. Bush won. It just didn’t seem that bad, the respective choices. The second thing is, is the universe of voters, you know, are open to this, is bigger. So 30 years ago, about a third of the public self-identified as independent, today that number is 47%, according to the latest Gallup tracker. So what we see is there is both a bigger universe of voters who have disavowed both parties, in effect, even if they’re technically registered that way. Number one, and number two, whereas 30 years ago, it was pretty center-right, center-left alternatives, that is not what we’re facing in this election. We are facing candidates that for very different reasons are just very far from where the public wants to be.
Jim: That’s a good point. How about the issue of shrinkage? You know, okay, you’re pulling 59%, say maybe, or 63%, say maybe, but inevitably that’ll shrink to a fifth of that by time election day comes out. What do you say to that?
Ryan: I think, look, Americans don’t wanna waste their vote. So you’re absolutely right. If there’s a third option, and they’re at 8% in the closing days of the election, then they’re gonna get 2%, because people are gonna know, this candidate really doesn’t have a chance. Our contention is that if there’s a serious, viable ticket that is polling at parity or ahead of these other two candidates, and that lead can be sustained through the summer and into the fall, then people will believe it’s real. They won’t think it’s a wasted vote. It’s a little bit of a chicken or egg question, but you’re right, at a certain level, if the candidate isn’t seen, or they are just kinda seen as a gadfly, their support is gonna collapse. But if it’s seen as viable, given how frustrated people are with their choices, we think that support can be sustained over time.
Jim: And interestingly, I agree with you in a specific case, and you’re pretty close to it. When I was discussing and arguing with Matt Bennett, he, of course, hits hard on the shrinkage idea, and I said, okay, from a systems perspective, we might actually see the reverse if a alternative reaches strong plausibility. Because as you said, most people don’t wanna waste their vote, and even if they’re an independent, they lean one way or the other. So, okay, Gary Johnson’s never gonna win.
That’s ridiculous. So I lean Republican, I’ll vote for whoever. I lean Democrat, I’ll vote for whoever. But if you have a candidate that is over the line of plausibility, you might actually see the opposite effect, which I call, instead of evaporation, you have condensation. People who are saying, you know, I’m kind of very lightly for Biden, okay? He could be worse, and I would vote for him.
But, you know, Hogan and Sinema, that’s a pretty reasonable team. And so you may actually see movement the other way, but in complexity science, we’d call it a bifurcation point. Kind of like water freezes at 32. It’s liquid before, and it’s solid above. There is some concept of strong plausibility, that if you’re below strong plausibility, you’ll evaporate. If you’re above strong plausibility, you have a good chance of retaining and maybe even strengthening your position.
So now comes the epistemological question. How do you tell if you’re actually at strong enough plausibility that it will hold? What’s the mechanism that you’re gonna use to do that?
Ryan: Well, as I noted, in the run up to deciding whether to put up a ticket, we will be looking at lots of data, but that open to question I talked about earlier, we’ll be…
Jim: Yeah, let’s not worry about that. Let’s assume you nominate a candidate, and, and of course there is a significant risk. You nominate a candidate and there’s a big yawn, right? Two people no one’s ever heard of, probably a big mistake. And two old white men, probably a big mistake, right? But let’s say you do nominate a good ticket and they do get traction, but you have to make the call sometime along the way, right? It’s tough. How do you constantly assess that you’re over this strong plausibility line, and what is the last date in which you can pull the trigger?
Ryan: So it’s different in every state, but by and large, it’s end of July. No labels has in effect unilateral control in almost all of the states to just pull it down. When you get beyond that into August, you can still pull some down, but you need more cooperation with the candidate.
As you get into the fall, it gets harder to pull things down. So the final decision point is probably sometime in July. It is hard to say today, like there’s not a single number threshold we can put forward because we don’t know if it’s gonna be a three candidate race. It could be a five candidate race for all of me know, but we are gonna be releasing out more detail over time as to what that looks like and what are the factors we’d be considering in judging, hey, is this thing really viable? Is this thing really real? Do we wanna in fact hand over our ballot to this ticket so they can go all the way through until November?
Jim: Now, what about this scenario? Let’s say it’s close. Let’s say in July, they’re polling 29%. And you guys say not strong enough and you wanna pull the trigger and cancel the run, but the candidates object. You know how candidates are. They all, every goddamn United States Senator thinks they’re the president of the United States in waiting and probably half the governors, right? So you know, a Senator and a former governor get on the ticket, but they don’t want to get off, but you think they should. Talk to me about that dynamic.
Ryan: I guess there’s two answers to that. We’re not out yet with exactly the criteria and the process that we’re going to make that decision and who’s going to be making that decision. That’ll be coming. What I can’t say though is technically speaking, that is no label’s ballot. We retain control of it. And so obviously if you ever reach that point, you’d hope to align with the candidate on the same decision. But if you didn’t, in the end, it wouldn’t matter what the candidate wanted to do. It would be no label’s call. It’s no label’s ballot.
Jim: And you’re sure about that, that all the states let you as the party machinery pull a candidate?
Ryan: Yes. As I said, it’s most states up until July.
Jim: Most may not suffice, right? Because if this could be a very, very close election again, which it looks like it will be, suppose the five states that you can’t pull are Michigan, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin. Let’s say it includes those three, right? Oops.
Ryan: I see what you’re getting at. So the short answer to that, Jim, is we have looked at this. There is, I believe, one pivotal state, New Hampshire, which is you really got to do it before then. But the other states are not states that you’d consider swing states. In other words, if no labels passed a deadline and was still on the ballot, it almost certainly wouldn’t make a difference in those states.
Jim: You know, what would be very useful is to put up on your website that data. What are the cutoffs by state? And that would, I think, would help people believe or not believe, however the facts fall, that you do have the power of the trigger up to some date. And I think that would help build the credibility for what you’re saying. Here’s something else I believe would help the credibility. And I invented this on the fly while arguing with Bennett was that you guys have a firm statement that the candidates have to agree to to take your nomination that says that if whoever the smoke filled room is decides to cancel it, that they agree to go along.
And of course, it’s not legally binding, but it would be a very strong moral commitment. Right on their website, it says, you know, Sinema, Hogan 2024, please note, we have agreed that the Council of Elders sitting on the top of Mount Olympus through July 25th have the right to cancel this. And we, Sinema and Hogan, agree that we will fold our campaign if they do something like that.
Ryan: Well, we obviously want to have as much transparency out there as we can and how we’re going to pick the ticket and what the different decision points will be. Look, we’re getting this out as fast as we can. The challenge, Jim, I’m sure as you understand is there’s a million ways to do this. And when it comes to picking a ticket, and what we’ve been trying to search for is you want to have a sweet spot where on the one hand you don’t want the smoke filled room.
It’s just a couple of people. On the other hand, you can’t have a free for all where anybody can come into the process because they’ll sabotage it. Like, you know, if you do some wide open online open primary before you know it, like Mickey Mouse is your candidate, you got to have a set of guardrails in place where you know it’s going to be a ticket that represents no labels values.
Jim: Now you talk about a convention. I realize you’re still a couple of weeks away from publishing your call for the convention or the grat bylaws or whatever it is that you’re going to be putting out. What can you tell us about what you’re thinking about? What is this convention? What’s its authority? How do people get invited to the convention? Those kinds of process questions.
Ryan: It’ll be in Dallas. It’ll be after Super Tuesday. Like I said, we’ll be announcing more details. I’d say by early November on what’s going to happen exactly at the convention. But in a look in the end, it’ll be one of two things. Either no labels will put up a ticket and that will really be the launching pad for a ticket or we won’t in which case we’ll still have the convention, but it’ll be a gathering place for all the leaders across the country who are really flying the flag for this movement. So, you know, governors, members of Congress. You know, we often talk about this common sense majority in the country.
In fact, that’s the name of the policy booklet we released over the summer. It’s called common sense. And it is so obvious to us that most Americans on most issues, they do have common sense positions on them. The problem is, is that our political system is now set up in a way where you can’t have a common sense position. You either have to have positions that make no sense and are not practical or you have to have extreme positions that are not supported by most people.
Jim: That’s sort of where we’re at and been at increasingly since 1994. We’re here. It seems to get worse.
Ryan: We haven’t talked a lot about issues. And I think that that’s the other thing that we think is so important is that there’s this vast part of the country that never has a voice in our politics. And you mentioned a lot of it is because of the, you know, part of the primary system. And as a consequence of that, we have reached this point where neither party really feels like they need to talk to the vast majority of the country.
Their calculation has become a very cynical one, right? Which is in effect, you don’t even really need to like our candidate. As long as you hate the other guy and fear the other guy more, you’ll come home to us. And so that’s why when we look at the next year running up to the election, in the absence of a no labels candidate in the mix. Does anybody think we’re going to be having Trump and Biden having a serious conversation about what we’re really going to need to get our own immigration system under control or what we’re really going to need to deal with our fiscal situation or how we’re going to navigate this moment in the world that, you know, for a lot of people are worried, is starting to look a little bit like the 1930s.
Like we are in a moment here where we really need serious conversations and we can’t, we can’t spend the next year with Trump just ranting about, you know, crazy leftists are going to turn us into, you know, Venezuela and Biden talking about semi-maga fascists who are, you know, going to destroy our democracy. We have got to have a better debate than that. And in the presence of a ticket like this, we think could engender that kind of debate.
Jim: You know, again, I am attracted to the idea very much so. But again, it’s this game theory, all right? No labels is plus 20, Biden’s minus 20, Trump’s minus 100. And so, you know, that seems to me that from my perspective, not necessarily from yours, but from my perspective, for me to get excited about no labels after the convention, it’s going to have to have a very clear cancel button that’s clearly executable and that will be executed if the best data available shows that this is a spoiler, which will throw the election to Trump.
Ryan: Jim, you know, there’s one other thing that we should really talk about, which is that there is this assumption right now that if you really want to beat Trump, the best way to do that is a Biden-Harris ticket. That might not be an assumption you want to run with.
Jim: It’s a very dangerous assumption.
Ryan: We went back and we’ve been looking at a lot of polling. President Biden over the course of the last year, his approval rating at one point at a time, his sunk is lowest 37. Today, it’s 41. No incumbent president with a sub 40% approval rating has won re-election since Harry Truman. So there are lots of scenarios where the president’s standing could be sinking over time.
Jim: Well, I agree. He could have medical problems. You know, there could be Hunter Biden problems. You know, there’s definitely some scenarios there that don’t work out so well. So I’m with you that, you know, it’s a really stupid thing for the Dems to nominate Biden, but it’s certainly looking like they will, unless there’s some very unexpected thing to occur. And Trump could beat him. And that’s scary too. As a person who doesn’t like Trump, that scares me a lot.
Ryan: The thing to me that’s stupid, look, if the Democrats over the course of like a rigorous and open process, if the judgment of the party is presidents are best candidate, okay, you know, you can do that.
That’s fine. The problem is thinking that the way to stop Trump is by shutting down every other voice in the system, telling them to sit down and shut up and get in line. And you have to vote. Nobody seems to recognize the irony in this. So a lot of the people like, you know, Matt Bennett would be one saying, we’re the people that are for democracy. And therefore you can only vote for our party. And they don’t recognize the irony in that statement. If the only way you can be for democracy is to support one party, that’s not a democracy anymore.
Jim: Indeed. And again, from a game theory perspective, I look at it and say, Republicans win easy by nominating Nikki Haley. The Dems win easily, nominating Gretchen Whitmer or somebody similar against Trump, but neither of them are likely to take those alternatives for the structural reasons that we talked about earlier, which then calls forth something like no labels as an alternative.
Ryan: And you know, Jim, you mentioned at the top, I came up on the Democratic side of politics. I used to work for President Biden, when he was vice president, I respect him. I like him, both me personally and as an organization. We’ve put out very unequivocal statement. There’s a difference between Trump and Biden. So we don’t think, oh, you know, they’re both, you know, equally unappealing. What we think is this, we think number one is that the public clearly wants an alternative and they’re not being given one. That’s really the central point. But the second thing is, I got to say that the level of hypocrisy that exists on part of the Democratic side, on this pro-democracy stuff.
Look, in the 22 midterms, a bunch of progressive and Democratic groups got engaged in Republican primaries to elevate the most MAGA members in Republican primaries because they thought they would be easier to beat in the general. Now, you know what? You may say, hey, politically, that’s really smart. But if you really believe it, that those people are a threat to democracy, then you don’t elevate them. You don’t run the risk that they’re actually going to get into office. You cannot, as Democrats say, oh, we are the party of voting rights and ballot access.
And then go around trying to shut down no labels from getting on ballots in states across the country. So there is a level of hypocrisy that exists on both sides. They both like to wrap themselves in the flag around we’re protecting democracy, we’re protecting the integrity of our elections. The things they’re doing are not really consistent with that.
Jim: Democrats and Republicans being hypocritical. Oh my god, right? The dog bites man, right? No big story there. So I would say I am still interested in what you’re up to, but I certainly hope that you build transparent triggers into the post convention process should you decide to nominate candidates, because you’re going to have a moral obligation, from my perspective, at least to pull the trigger and stop an effort that’s going to do nothing but elect Donald Trump to a second and probably very ruinous administration.
Ryan: There will absolutely be more to come on that, Jim.
Jim: Alrighty, I want to thank Ryan Clancy for a very informative, very excellent discussion about the No Labels insurance policy for 2024.
Ryan: Thanks for having me, Jim.
Jim: It was great.