No Labels, the self-described centrist group fueled largely by dark money donations from the uber-wealthy, recently abandoned its efforts to be a power player in the 2024 presidential race. And to that we say good riddance.

Throughout history, third-party candidates have – like it or not – played the role of spoiler, a wild card that tilts the election to one of the major party candidates.

But this election is far too important for the games played by the No Labels with its secret donors, or for vanity runs, such as that of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an aging nepo baby and leading peddler of misinformation on vaccines who apparently thinks it’s his birthright to run for president.

More than any other in modern history, this election is a sharply defined, binary choice between a fairly conventional Democratic incumbent and a would-be autocrat and racist who faces multiple felony indictments, has been found liable for sexual assault and who has declared his intention to be a dictator on his first day in office.

No Labels bet big last year that voter fatigue over a rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump would result in the group being welcomed with ballot access in all 50 states and a plethora of big-name candidates eager to join their cause. With no small amount of hubris, the group declared it was “in it to win it.”

Alas, it was not to be. No Labels went hat in hand down the list of formers and wannabes: former governors Chris Christie and Nikki Haley, former generals, business tycoons, US senators. Even Republican Maryland Governor Larry Hogan turned them down — and he served on the No Labels board. Hence, the organization’s decision to end its bid to field a 2024 presidential candidate.


Christie at one point called the No Labels effort “a fool’s errand,” and said he would not be part of anything that might tip the election to Trump. Many critics across the political spectrum expressed fear that a No Labels run would hurt Biden more than Trump, whose base has proved fanatically loyal.

No Labels opponent Doug Jones, a former Democratic U.S. senator from Alabama, said in one television interview that, “It looks like they (No Labels) will be a spoiler in favor of Donald Trump and that will be the biggest threat to democracy that we have seen since Jan. 6.”

For all its centrist veneer, the fact is that no one can be too sure what No Labels is about in its current iteration. A classic dark money group, it refuses to disclose its well-heeled donors and won’t even identify the roughly 800 delegates who took part in a recent meeting to plot strategy. Because of badly broken campaign finance laws, the group may never have to reveal its donor list, better allowing it to conceal its true objectives.

As my colleague Nia-Malika Henderson wrote recently, Kennedy found a different way to finance his campaign: He picked a wealthy running mate in Nicole Shanahan. He’s traded on his family’s name and legacy even though most of the Kennedy clan has disavowed his campaign.

Just like No Labels, Kennedy’s bid is also doomed to failure. He will serve the same wild card function performed by every other third-party presidential candidate who preceded him. And while there is no way to know who he might tilt the election to, it seems increasingly clear that Biden is the target.

Earlier this month in a CNN interview, Kennedy said Biden was a “much worse threat to democracy” than Trump. And this week, a bombshell video quickly made the rounds on social media showing Rita Palma, identified in the video as Kennedy’s New York State campaign director, declaring Biden to be the “mutual enemy” of Trump and Kennedy voters. She told a crowd that “whether you support Bobby or Trump, we all oppose Biden.”

Palma even laid out how the Kennedy campaign could deprive Biden of victory by eating away at his electoral vote totals. If blue states such as New York went for Kennedy, she said, Biden would fall short of the 270 Electoral College votes needed. If Trump also fell short, the contest would be thrown to the GOP House, which, she predicted, would choose Trump. “We’re rid of Biden either way,” Palma said. The video highlighted what many suspected was Kennedy’s goal all along – to hurt Biden. A Kennedy spokesperson later denied that Palma was the state director, calling her a “ballot access consultant,” and insisted that Palma was acting as a “private citizen.”

It’s hard to discern how someone with one of the most storied names in politics, whose early career was built on environmental issues, clean water, Indigenous rights, and other worthy causes devolved into a man obsessed with conspiracy theories and spreading disinformation on vaccines. Someone who cynically chose a running mate not for her readiness to run the country, but seemingly for her bankroll. Someone whose legacy now may be throwing one of the most consequential elections in our lifetime to one of the most unfit candidates ever.

What matters now is that voters see Kennedy for who he is and deny him the ability to manipulate the outcome of this election.

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