Opinion | Tony Jones: A need for more ‘Common Sense’

No Labels has released a booklet, titled “Common Sense,” that outlines grave policy issues that America is facing, and proposes solutions that will require bipartisan support in Congress to effectively implement. For details on No Labels’ policy recommendations, download the PDF for free at or see “Purple Presidency” author, Owen Paepke’s, Substack where he delves into the topics that Common Sense touches on. The introduction to the booklet mentions its Revolutionary-era namesake, a pamphlet written by Founding Father Thomas Paine, whose words helped spark the American Revolution. But in truth, the subjects outlined in No Labels’ offering aren’t all that revolutionary, they’re, well, common sense.

But it seems like it’s commonsense thinking that’s lacking in our national governance right now. While parties are focusing on matters that seem to mostly appeal to their base, many of the critical problems “Common Sense” documents are going unaddressed. These are issues that are familiar to anyone who’s been paying attention, things like voting access and integrity, immigration, gun violence and public safety. Solutions for ensuring the solvency of entitlement programs and tackling our budget deficits and national debt have also been put on the back burner.

So far, it seems as if the major parties aren’t interested in defining their approach to the policy concerns that No Labels has raised, but they are concentrating on suppressing the No Labels movement instead. It’s hard to believe that the politicians fighting No Labels, folks like Colorado’s own Marc Udall, are doing so for anything other than preserving the status quo. Udall and others argue that any candidate No Labels puts forward can only serve to act as a spoiler for the Democrats and end up electing Trump. This needn’t necessarily be the case though, as Karl Rove pointed out in a recent Wall Street Journal editorial.

Primary voters on both sides should hold their candidates accountable by insisting on legislative priorities that target the real problems that threaten the future of our country. This, as opposed to platforms full of dogwhistle issues that fire up fringe elements. That means eschewing programs to implement Trump’s retaliatory and autocratic intentions and holding both sides responsible for the thankless task of getting our national spending under control and prioritizing what our tax dollars and legislative attention are focused on.

Most Americans don’t want a repeat of the 2020 election, but if moderate and unaffiliated voters sit out the primaries, leaving only diehard party supporters to vote, a 2020 redux is what we’ll get. In 2024, the choice between these candidates will be even more disappointing than it was in 2020 since we already know what we’ll get with both. It’s likely that Trump would give only lip service to the crucial policies that “Common Sense” details, per his proposed governance priorities. Meanwhile, Biden’s fitness for the office, physically and mentally, are a legitimate question for voters to ponder. With the added baggage of his son’s legal woes, he seems less and less a viable candidate.

If 2024 looks like it will be a 2020 rehash, it appears No Labels will nominate a Unity ticket to give voters more choice in the presidential race. Presumably the candidates on that ticket will commit to pursuing legislation on the issues that “Common Sense” outlines, and that makes a compelling case for voting for this third option. However, if Republican and Democratic primary voters promote pragmatic centrist candidates to the general election, No Labels stands down, and the third-party candidate angst that is galling the political establishments will subside.

How No Labels assesses the suitability of party establishment candidates is certainly a question that needs to be addressed. But a candidate’s stated prioritization of, and approach to, the critical issues in “Common Sense” is a good place for them and primary voters to start in their analysis. During your review of No Labels’ legislative agenda and the platforms for the parties and presidential candidates, you may note that they mostly address the same issues and may even do so in similar ways. This shows that, in truth, most of us really aren’t as far apart on these policy matters as the media or the political establishments would have you believe. Politicians from both wings should leverage these commonalities during their negotiations for solutions to the concerns that No Labels raises, starting from a point of agreement rather than dissent.

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