Seth Wenig, Associated Press
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist attends the No Labels conference in New York, Monday, Dec. 13, 2010.
NEW YORK — This city’s annual gridlock festival, otherwise known as the United Nations General Assembly, is a proper metaphor for America’s current state of affairs.
While Manhattan’s already snarled streets filled beyond capacity with limos toting dignitaries, a quieter, less-theatrical group of thinkers and leaders was meeting to discuss strategies for a rising new political center.
The Sunday event was the inaugural “Ideas Summit” of The New Center, the policy arm of No Labels, an organization dedicated to restoring bipartisanship and a centrist governing philosophy in Washington. Organizers presented their first policy book with solutions to “re-center America.” And about 100 politicians, financial backers and others convened to hear former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in a conversation with former Sen. Joe Lieberman, a No Labels co-chair, about the dire need to counter partisan ideology and the concerning global rise of strongman leadership. (Disclosure: I moderated.)
If such a gathering seems vaguely Third-Way-ish in a “This Is Us,” you-need-a-hug sort of way, it is also a serious attempt by serious people to give Blair’s “politically homeless” a place to land and from which to lead.
“If we can’t mobilize the center,” he said, “the consequences will be driven deep.”
Blair, who has been hitting the media and think-tank circuit hard this past week, isn’t new to the No Labels movement, which he finds compatible with his own push for progressive centrism in Britain, despite his status as something of a political pariah these days. In his spare time, he’s also pursuing Middle East peace through his namesake institute and recently offered proposals to reverse Brexit, which he considers a terrible mistake.
Lending his support to No Labels is also consistent with his view that the United States and Britain must work together to protect and advance our shared values. On Sunday, he noted as hopeful signs the recent election of centrist French President Emmanuel Macron and the likely re-election next week of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.