(1) creating 25 million new jobs in the next 10 years; (2) securing
Social Security and Medicare for the next 75 years; (3) balancing
the federal budget by 2030; and (4) making America energy-secure by
2024. "They're getting policy across," Hayden said of the national
National No Labels has started the
Congressional Problem Solvers Caucus. Hayden said it's the third
largest caucus in Congress, behind the Republican and Democratic
caucuses. There are 20 House Republicans and 20 House Democrats,
including Minnesota U.S. Representatives Erik Paulsen (R) and Rick
Hayden said the caucus members agreed to
vote as a bloc on the budget. "They want to vote on a 'clean'
budget, nothing that's going to be a partisan holdup regarding the
Mexican wall or Planned Parenthood or anything like that," he said.
"They want to get through what they can. They're trying to balance
the more obstructionist strategies that are out there."
Hayden said he was excited by the Problem
Solvers Caucus deciding to vote as a bloc. "I'm encouraged by the
direction and the momentum we're building," he said.
National No Labels created two PACs-one
supporting Democrats and one supporting Republicans-and tested them
in the 2016 election. Hayden said the group found candidates who
were hyper-partisan and ran candidates against them in the primary
elections. "It's been successful," he said. There are some backers
who are raising $50 million for the 2018 election. "They're trying
to get people to play ball, instead of cause gridlock."
No Labels Minnesota, though still a small
group, is doing its best to have an impact. The group has put on
various events, including having Jon Huntsman and others come to
speak to generate interest and support, Hayden said. "In Saint Paul,
we're headed down the same road. We're starting to see
hyper-partisanship here." The group is trying to use some of the
strategies of the national organization. The Minnesota group did a
literature drop at the Capitol recently and is exploring a PAC of
"We have a lot of swing districts in the
state we'd probably focus on to get people who are more moderate,"
We saw alternative facts play a big role
in the last election. Hayden made that remark in response to an
interviewer's comment that sometimes people invoke a belief that's
contrary to fact, which creates polarization. The interviewer said
that's because many people don't know how the world really works.
Hayden said there's a large amount of
tribalism today. "You don't need to know anything; you just need to
prove your loyalty to the group," he said. There are echo chambers
where only certain kinds of information are allowed, whether on
social media or in a book club. As a result, he said, when they see
something, they're not talking about how to understand things.
They're bringing in talking points and ways to undercut their
An interviewer asked what the goal of
tribalism is. "I guess their ultimate object is not to solve a
problem," the interviewer said. Hayden responded that the goal is
just to be accepted. "Your political beliefs are your social
identity," he said, noting that people are now choosing to live in
places that will reaffirm their beliefs. He said the same thing is
happening when people decide where to go to college. "We've kind of
self-selected our camps," he said.
When the interviewer asked how No Labels
hopes to get around that, Hayden said people don't realize how much
they have in common. "How do you tear down that wall?" he asked.
"You have to build empathy. You have to be exposed to other
viewpoints. That's why No Labels takes members of Congress bowling.
You need to have interface with people to build empathy. You have to
understand that people with different viewpoints are not malicious.
We might not agree on why a problem exists, but you might agree on
how to solve it."
People who say government isn't working
are trying to undermine it. Hayden gave that response when an
interviewer commented that (1) there is a large group of people who
don't think government is the solution and, in fact, usually makes
things worse; and (2) there is a large group of people who think if
we pass the right laws, we'll solve things. Hayden said there is a
group on the right who want to let government implode. "But if we
start at the top and get people to sit down and work together, it
can permeate," he said.
Another interviewer asked how we can get a
conversation going on something like affordable housing, when
there's such massive ignorance about how the world works. Hayden
responded that it's interesting how people who are hurt most by
government not meeting their needs are very vulnerable to activism
that is not always rooted in solutions that would make the most
sense to the people who know the most about it.
"It's still our job to listen and be at
the table," he said. The way to educate both sides is to sit down
together and build empathy. But first, he said, you must build
trust. You have to be able to trust that people won't second-guess
what you're trying to do. "We have to consider that maybe the idea
we've had for a long time can be tweaked," he said.
Looking for instant results breeds
impatience. An interviewer made that comment and said people
have to be patient and stick with an idea long enough to give it
time to work. It's important to report on a consistent basis small
steps being made. "When people get in silos, you don't recognize
that you're making progress," he said. "People need to be able to
claim successes. And we must create more opportunities in more
places for people to say what they believe without someone jumping
Because of technology, millennials have a
hard time having meaningful interactions. Hayden said a few
decades ago, there was a lot more human interaction and people saw
each other more. "How do we create those interactions in this
digital age when people are getting more isolated?" he asked.
An interviewer said Adam Grant, in his new
book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, says if
you ask people to explain how a policy works, they tend to be a lot
more moderate than they self-identify. It's different if you ask
them where they stand on a policy or an issue.
To get a conversation started, the
interviewer said, you must reach out in an open-minded and
empathetic way to individuals and let them feel their opinions are
valued and that you just want to understand where they're coming
from. "Once you do that," she said, "you can start to parse out the
Don't we just create a third label when we
call it No Labels? An interviewer asked that question and Hayden
responded, "No. We're not asking anyone to put aside his or her
beliefs. We're not even going to say we're 'independents' or
'moderates,' even though a lot of them are moderates."
He said there are two groups in politics:
(1) people who think they're right all the time and don't want to
work with the other side and (2) people who are willing to sit down
and work with the other side. "I want No Labels to be that second
group," Hayden said. He thinks the organization can resonate with
what some people are calling the "new center."
In the national spotlight, people have to
play partisan ball. Hayden made that remark in response to an
interviewer's comment that there is less evidence at the state level
than at the national level of people not working with the other
side. The interviewer said an organization trying to come up with
good ideas has a better chance of getting those ideas considered and
acted upon at the state level than at the national level.
Hayden said there is more "big money" at
the national level, along with more people who can't change their
minds about things. There's not as much news coverage at the state
level, making it easier for people to be less partisan than when
they're in the national spotlight.
No Labels Minnesota is seen now as
the gold standard for state organizations. Hayden said that's
true because the Minnesota group has events, a website and good
social media interaction. "The national team has used us as petri
dish," he said. "They realize they have to build out a state
network." He said 1,000 people, representing all 50 states, attended
the national No Labels convention in Washington, D.C., in March.
Is the middle being represented? An
interviewer asked that question and Hayden said he has the same
worry. He said No Labels is trying to do something about it. The
national organization has been involved in several primary elections
and was successful in knocking out two Congressional candidates from
the Freedom Caucus. "We must go out and play politics," Hayden said.
"We've got to play the game and we need to spend some money on it."
The national No Labels PACs are going to
provide money to people who are more altruistic about their reasons
for running for office. An interviewer asked how to counteract
large amounts of "dark money" being poured into far-right
organizations and candidates. "You can't just lie down and let that
roll all over you," Hayden said. "Until we get some kind of campaign
finance reform, you're going to have to come to the table."
He noted that all donors to the No Labels
PACs-one supporting Democratic candidates and one supporting
Republican candidates-are listed on the organization's website. The
Minnesota No Labels group does not have any PACs yet.
Part of the problem is finding the right
people who are willing to run for public office. An interviewer
made that comment and said many people want to run for office
because they think they'll have more power. He asked what No Labels
wants the political system to look like.
Hayden responded: no government shutdowns,
issues being addressed, meaningful campaign debates, the discussion
being elevated, people being educated. "What we have now is just a
catfight," Hayden said. "Now we have candidates who are very
partisan. Who'd be crazy enough to run against that kind of person?
People have seen what it's like. You're really putting yourself out
there. How do you find someone to run against these big party
Are there organizations or movements in
Minnesota that are chiefly interested in understanding how things
work before they speak? An interviewer asked that question and
Hayden's first reply was the Civic Caucus. When the interviewer
asked him for other examples, Hayden named MinnPost, an
online news publisher best known for its coverage of Minnesota
policy and politics. (See March 10, 2017,