For the better part of the last 170 years, the Democratic and Republican parties have been the prominent voices in American politics. Essentially, it’s been all about the elephants and the donkeys.

But in the 2024 cycle, a pair of new national third parties, the No Labels Party and the Forward Party, are hoping to buck trends, asking Americans to consider ignoring the loudest entrenched voices dominating politics on each side and throw in their lot for a centrist approach.

Moving with the aisle crossers

The No Labels Party is descended from a political organization of the same name — one which seeks to bring together dealmaking, aisle-crossing members of both the Democratic and Republican parties. That groundwork has them working from inside of the Capitol building and moving outward. 

So far, No Labels has announced plans to get on ballots across the country to potentially run a so-called “unity ticket” for the 2024 presidential race — unless the two major parties find what it considers more acceptable candidates.

"No Labels has said this is an insurance policy in the event both major parties nominate presidential candidates that the vast majority of Americans don’t want. If this happens, No Labels itself will not run a candidate, but we will have the launching pad, specifically in the form of ballot access across the country," the party said.

Certain members of today’s Congress have very publicly made centrism their brand — one such notable figure is Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who made waves when she changed her party affiliation from Democrat to independent in December. In 2018, Sinema was the first Democrat to win a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona since 1995, breaking a 23-year Republican grip.

“When politicians are more focused on denying the opposition party a victory than they are on improving Americans’ lives, the people who lose are everyday Americans,” Sinema said in an op-ed announcing her registration switch, published in The Arizona Republic on Dec. 9

In February, Sinema was among a group of lawmakers who joined honorary No Labels co-chairs Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, in a “strategy session” held in Miami. All told, seven current members of Congress were at that session, including Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Texas Reps. Tony Gonzales, a Republican, and Henry Cuellar and Vincente Gonzalez, both Democrats.

"The 117th Congress was overwhelming proof that bipartisanship can and does work," Manchin and Collins said in a joint statement following the strategy session. "This weekend, we were proud to lead important bipartisan discussions about the most pressing issues facing our country with a robust group of Congressional leaders who share our commitment to bipartisan compromises. We are encouraged by these productive conversations and are resolute in our determination to tackle these challenges head on and deliver lasting solutions for the American people.”

“For the first 10 years of No Labels, it was just almost exclusively focused on Congress,” No Labels senior strategist Ryan Clancy told Spectrum News.

No Labels, a 501(c)(4) non-profit, was the force behind the “Problem Solvers Caucus,” a group of about 60 Congress members Clancy described as “the pragmatic people in between” the Freedom Caucus on the right and the Progressive Caucus on the left. That was followed by more outreach within the Senate — building connections with Manchin, Collins, Sinema and Cassidy — which Clancy credits with spearheading major recent bipartisan legislation, like the 2021 infrastructure law.

'We are very much trying to make the two-party system work'

Since January, No Labels has gained recognition as a political party in Colorado, Oregon and Arizona (though the Arizona Democratic Party is suing to challenge that status), and has “limited political party” status in Alaska.

With party recognition comes a spot on the ballot, allowing No Labels to run candidates in those states. However, Clancy said the reasoning for the new party isn’t necessarily to uproot the existing two-party system.

“We are very much trying to make the two-party system work,” he said. “But about a year ago, we started to look over the horizon at the 2024 presidential election and just did not like what we saw. ... Our members from across the country didn’t like what they saw. And they saw the very real possibility that both major parties were going to put forth presidential nominees [whom] the vast majority of Americans don't want to vote for, potentially.”

To back that up, on March 30 No Labels released a poll, conducted by research company HarrisX, which found 69% of registered voters surveyed do not want President Joe Biden to run for a second term and 62% of respondents believe the same about former President Donald Trump.

The poll also found that 59% of respondents “would consider voting for a moderate independent candidate” in a contest between Trump and Biden — and that 20% would definitely vote for the hypothetical candidate over the two known quantities.

“So think of that (20%) as your floor and (59%) as your ceiling," Clancy said. "To win an outright victory in the Electoral College … you need about 35-37% of the vote,” Clancy said. 


But will it attract voters?


But to ultimately win, they'll need to convince the public. And that, No Labels is betting, is where the “common sense” platform will win. 

“On issue after issue, this is the dynamic you see: there’s this solution sitting there, staring us in the face…if you just took 10 random people off the street and gave them some pizza and beer and put them around the table, they’d figure it out,” Clancy said. “But we can’t have it, because the loudest and angriest voices won’t get out of the way.”

Little more than 19 months away from the 2024 general election, their platform hasn’t yet been published.

In 2016, No Labels published a “Policy Playbook for America’s Next President,” a nearly 200 page document that outlined 60 policy ideas in four areas, jobs, social programs, the budget and energy — with polling data to back up their popularity — as well as ideas to “make government work” and a handful more to “revitalize” the office of the president.

Not all of these policies are No Labels originals — some, like freeing Medicare to negotiate with drug manufacturers for lower prices — have floated in policy circles for quite a while before being adopted. 

No Labels plans to release another policy platform document, the “Common Sense Policy Agenda” this summer. It’s not expected to be as expansive, as “everything to everybody” as the 2016 booklet, Clancy said.

Having these policies adopted by the larger two parties isn’t a bug to No Labels, the group says — it’s a feature.

“What we want to do is just [have] the starting point to say, look, we’ve been tucked into this belief that we’re bitterly divided … there is a lot more agreement than people think,” Clancy said. He pointed to efforts by Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, who recently made headlines for breaking ranks with his House GOP colleagues on border security legislation as an example.

“We need results. We need real tangible solutions, and that starts by sitting down and having meaningful conversations, not just passing messaging bills that are no doubt not gonna get passed,” Gonzales told Spectrum News in February

“The end game of this effort is not to run an independent unity ticket. The endgame is to make sure Americans have the choice of effective, strong and honest leaders running for president on the ticket, if one or both parties actually wake up,” Clancy said. 

The key, he concluded, is having the right assets. Ideas are good. But ideas, combined with ballot access and competition that could  awaken the quiet, “common sense” majority and threaten the status-quo’s hold on power?

“That’s the language that people in politics understand,” Clancy said.