ESTRICH: No Labels, No Trump

The Dursts are right. The chairman and president of the wealthy New York real estate company brought suit this week in New York State Supreme Court against the group that is threatening to run a third-party candidate for president. It is not a bipartisan, pro-good government effort, which is what the Dursts contributed to when No Labels was starting out. It is, pure and simple, a group that is positioned to help Donald Trump beat Joe Biden. The Dursts want their money back, and more importantly, they are raising the alarm about a group that could be the deciding factor in the 2024 election.

“This case seeks to hold No Labels accountable for the consequences of its misguided actions that have left its original benefactors like the Dursts feeling bewildered, betrayed and outraged,” the complaint says. “No Labels has shifted seismically from its original mission, and its donors, like the Dursts, who believed in the mission and financially supported it, should not have to stand idly by … (had) No Labels ever given any indication that it might pursue such a gambit, the Dursts never would have funded the organization.”

Third parties don’t win presidential elections. What they do is skew the results, pulling votes and making it possible for a candidate who is not the first or second choice of a majority of voters to nonetheless win the election. This is particularly so when you have a candidate who is strongly supported by a significant minority of voters but with little or no bipartisan support. In other words, it is a recipe for giving MAGA a false victory at the ballot box. It is just what No Labels, in its initial incarnation, was supposed to prevent.

The organization that the Dursts contributed to was, their lawyer Randy Mastro pointed out, “committed to promote bipartisanship and bridge the political divide … They never imagined at the time that No Labels would pivot to becoming the organization behind a quixotic third-party candidacy that could skew the most consequential presidential election of our lifetime. The Dursts believe they were sold a bill of goods, and they want no part of it.”

No Labels was never the organization it purported to be. As the complaint points out, the official Twitter account of No Labels criticized the work of the House Jan. 6 committee as a “partisan exercise,” echoing the words of Donald Trump and his supporters. My old friend and the brilliant Democrat Bill Galston, one of No Labels’ co-founders, left the group last year when it turned its focus to securing ballot access and recruiting a presidential candidate to run on its ticket.

No Labels claims publicly that it is seeking an alternative to Donald Trump, not trying to elect him. How dumb do they think we are? The MAGA minority is not going to desert Donald Trump no matter what he does. If 91 counts is not enough to shake his base, if finding him liable for fraud and sexual assault is not enough, if slurred speeches invoking pedophile priests in support of his argument for absolute immunity is not enough, then it is fair to conclude that nothing will be enough to convince his base to turn away. Trump controls the base of the Republican Party, which could be enough to win the election if the non-MAGA majority is divided between two anti-Trump candidates.

The best thing about the two-party system is that it has a moderating effect: elections in a two-party system tend to be decided in the middle, not by ideologues on either side. Simple math tells you that in an election that is likely to be a referendum on Donald Trump, two anti-Trump candidates are enough to elect Trump. Standing up to the fallacy that is No Labels, as the Dursts are doing, is key to a future of No Trump.