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Breaking the Binary: The Rise of a Third-Party Movement

A Conversation with Governor Pat McCrory
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Richard Helppie  

Hello, welcome to The Common Bridge. Poll after poll shows American voters are fed up with the Republicans, they're fed up with the Democrats and right now over 70% of American voters do not want either Donald Trump nor Joe Biden to be the president of the United States. Now, The Common Bridge is about problem solving - as many of our listeners, readers, and viewers know - taking on policy issues, looking at journalism, and particularly what's going on in our political system. Guess what? There are other good people that have been working to try to solve problems in Congress, they're looking for compromise and middle ground. They're part of the "No Labels" movement. Perhaps the No Labels movement can bring an end to the awful presidential choices that are being served up by the two major parties. With us today to talk about No Labels is the former governor of North Carolina, the Honorable Pat McCrory. Governor, it's so nice to have you here with us on The Common Bridge.

Pat McCrory  

Rich, thank you very much. It's an honor to be on your podcast.

Richard Helppie  

It's good to have you. Look, No Labels - I encourage everyone to get more information, NoLabels.org is the website - if you go there, it says "most Americans are decent, caring, reasonable, patriotic people but we don't see those traits reflected in our politics today." I don't think truer words have ever been spoken. It goes on to say "instead, we see our two major parties dominated by angry and extremist voices driven by ideology and identity politics rather than what's best for our country. We hear reason and persuasion, the pillars of our democracy since its founding, being replaced by anger and intimidation." The one thread that connects all these, of course, is that none of the issues will be solved unless we have enough members of both parties who put their country above party and work together to solve them. As we've tragically seen, good people that have served in elected office that look to serve their constituents versus be loyal to their party are often pilloried by the press. In fact, the former Senator Joe Lieberman, former vice presidential candidate, was ripped in an editorial because during his career he wasn't sufficiently loyal to his party; he was doing the work of the people of Connecticut and the United States. Governor McCrory, you were a mayor, very successful mayor, and you went on to become a good governor in North Carolina. You ran into a lot of the polarization, whereas most people would look at you as being a centrist. Tell me a little bit about your background and then how did you get involved with No Labels?

Pat McCrory  

I was originally a city councilman at the age of 32 because of the high crime that we had in Charlotte, North Carolina. Then I became a mayor, I was mayor for 14 years, got very active in infrastructure and also public safety and economic development and then I became governor of North Carolina, the ninth largest state in the United States of America. I was also a US Senate candidate, a failed candidate. So I guess you could say I've played the game, I know the game, I've been played by the game and I'm here to tell you and the American public - which they already know - the game is broken. The two party system is broken and I've been a part of it and I'm now here to help expose it and fix it along with distinguished people like Joe Lieberman, Dr. Ben Chavis and Admiral Bill Blair and others. We're a group of people who understand our nation is divided. We've got to come together, have civil discussion, and solve these complex problems that we're facing in our country and our world so the next generation enjoys the same freedom of democracy that we have today. Right now, because we have a broken system, we've got to have people that are courageous enough to admit the system is broken and have ideas to fix it. So that's why I'm a member of No Labels. I definitely agree with their vision, with their objectives. I thought by now - when I volunteered for No Labels well over a year ago - that the two parties would have fixed themselves but instead, they're digging themselves into an even deeper hole. No Labels I think will be a viable alternative in a very short period of time in the presidential election.

Richard Helppie  

This country has a rich history of third parties, but even as I saw you on a local Detroit channel in the lead into the show, every single time they mentioned it, they said, well, third parties have been really nothing but spoilers and really don't change the outcome of the election. Is that true in 2024?

Pat McCrory  

I do not think it is anymore. I think we've never seen numbers like this, where 65 to 70% of the people do not want a rematch of the two leading presidential contenders in both parties. What's ironic, the parties don't seem to care. In fact, they've gotten rather arrogant and believe me, I understand this, I've been a part of this game. The two parties are saying take what we offer because you won't have any other choice. I think the people now are saying no, we're not going to put up with that arrogance, we want another choice. Usually in past presidential elections, for example Perot coming in as a third party candidate against Bush and Clinton, about only 40% of the people disagreed with the two potential candidates and said we want another alternative. It's now 65 to 70%, according to most recent surveys, saying, no, we don't want these two candidates. But the two political parties are proceeding with that choice. So these are different times and I think people are willing to look for a choice, especially a choice that is saying what the American people are saying - they're saying enough. They're saying enough; we want problem solvers, we want results. We want people looking at long term solutions and we want maturity and leadership. I think that's what we have a chance to offer. But the critics - as you know by the Wall Street Journal article recently against Joe Lieberman - are basically saying, how dare you even question us, which I think is kind of arrogant, with all due respect.

Richard Helppie  

It's all become about brand and tribe and very little about policy.

Pat McCrory  

I think you're missing another word that starts with a P - it's about power. (Rich Helppie:  Yes.) They want to hold on to the power of the system in DC. Inside the Beltline doesn't want to upset the status quo because they understand the power structure and they want to work within that current structure; that they understand. And there's a lot of money in this power structure. Power is a very powerful stimulation and they want to keep that. We're stepping on the toes of that power structure in both parties at this point in time.

Richard Helppie  

So let me make sure I understand what No Labels position is today, and it's not a political party.

Pat McCrory  

No, it's, I'd say...I'd call it more of a movement.

Richard Helppie  

One of the things that's refreshing as I've been doing my preparation for our talk today, you're talking about issues - I encourage people:  NoLabels.org, look at Common Sense issue by issue. People look at that and say hey, not only is that reasonable, it's better than what we had. Is it perfect? No, perhaps not, but it's substantive. It's back to the essence of what democracy really is, which is compromise. It's meeting in the middle, it's you're not going to get everything you want. My understanding though, of what No Labels position is, is that come Super Tuesday in February next month if it still looks like Biden/Trump between the Republicans and the Democrats, at that point, there's going to be named candidates to put forth a ticket in all the states in which you can get ballot access.

Pat McCrory  

Yeah, after Super Tuesday - or before, we're not sure if...once we know that Trump and Biden are the two final candidates we'll make a decision. Do we have a viable option to run a third party and can we win? Will we be competitive and can we win? We will nominate a ticket and we're getting on the...our first goal right now, just to let you know, our first goal, which we've been working on over a year now is to get on the ballots, that's the biggest struggle. And frankly, the two party system doesn't want competition. I've been known as a pretty conservative guy and I believe competition is good, including politics, and yet the two parties don't want competition. They've kind of set up a system in all 50 states to make it difficult to get on the ballot. (Rich Helppie:  Yes they have.) We're overcoming those roadblocks that many states are putting up, and many lawyers in lawsuits are putting up. We have a good team working on it. Ben Chavis and former Governor Nixon of Missouri - a good friend of mine, Democrat, I was a Republican, we served together - they've headed up ballot integrity, to make sure that we can get on all the ballots. We'll be able to get on all the ballots, but about - I don't have the exact number - 15 states require that we have a name. So those candidates, whatever candidates we end up selecting, want to get on the ballot with their names in those 13 to 15 states at this point in time. But we're working hard. We're in North Carolina, we're in Utah, we're in Florida. I mean, I don't have the list in front of me, but I'm proud of the states that we've done and it's been difficult. It's been difficult. But you've got to have the courage to work through these roadblocks for the sake of protecting our democracy. 

Richard Helppie  

Indeed. And when you think about where the big blocks of the Electoral College reside - California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois - I think people need to keep in mind that the current governor in New York barely held on to her job and that was running against a Republican challenger. New York is being overwhelmed now with their share of the immigration crisis, seems there might be opportunity there for the people that haven't already moved to Florida, I suppose. California, I mean, that's a tall order, effectively a single party state. Mapping a pathway to 270 electoral votes seems like a pretty daunting challenge.

Pat McCrory  

We actually have a model to do just that. Listen, we're basing our information on statistics. But first of all, we're getting feedback from the American people and where they stand on issues. Most people have common sense. They want to see common sense solutions and they're not as extreme as what the two parties are providing. Most of them want to get together and go oh, that makes common sense. I'll give you an example on immigration. You know, right now, the Republicans want to protect the border and also close some of the loopholes. The Democrats want to let in Dreamers but the Democrats don't want to protect the border as much. The Republicans don't want to get the Dreamers. Guess what the American people are saying? The American people are saying why don't we do both? (Rich Helppie:  Yeah, exactly.) It's common sense. That's part of our Common Sense solution. So in one regard, we're getting feedback from the American people but we're also looking at the statistics state by state because this is not a national election, It's a state by state election with winner take all but two or three states. We're seeing that a third party candidate in a sufficient number of states to get the sufficient number of electoral votes, we can win with a third party candidate and a third party ticket and third party idea of common sense solutions.

Richard Helppie  

So the difficulty of ballot access and then getting media support that's not a narrative story about well, wait a minute, this is just a disruptive third party. Is there a good media strategy to reach voters? Of course, being on this program will chip away a little bit, we hope, and we want people to know about No Labels because frankly, our position is that Biden and Trump are horrible choices. I've published on this many, many times and indeed, before setting this up, I wrote a recent column about make your vote count and that's not by voting for the lesser of two evils. There's never been a politician in the world at inauguration time saying, I stand before you as the lesser of two evils; never happened and it never will happen. Then we have the RITOs out there, what I call "Republicans If Trump Only" and there are a lot of Democrats in that, they're going to cross over. Certain states, like my home state of Michigan, vote for Trump in the primary because he looks more easy to beat. They're all playing that two party game; I get why they're terrified. But who might be on that ticket from No Labels? That's...I mean, who's that centrist or two centrists that are going to be able to appeal to a broad swath of the American voters?

Pat McCrory  

Well, let me first say I'm going to be very careful about providing any names at this point in time. First of all, our main goal of No Labels is to get on the ballot. And then once we get on the ballot and allow a candidate name to get on the ballot, then it's up to the candidate to run the campaign. No Labels is not going to run any campaign. No Labels is actually a nonprofit, although by state law, it's listed as a party in many states so I just want to clarify that point. It'll be the candidates running the campaign, not No Labels. Our job is to get ballot access, we'll help select the candidates, and then it'll be up to the candidates to sell themselves and the issues. But I think our major challenge - you're seeing this in the media right now, and you asked the original question what about the media - we have a challenge with the media. Because the media with many of the pundits - and I've been a pundit on NBC and CNN and others many times - the two power structures of the two parties are putting their pundits out there every night on cable TV and saying don't even consider a third party. So they're trying to get that theme out there that it's a waste of time. In fact, that's the only argument against us, because they can't defend their two candidates and the results of what the two parties are providing at this point in time. So that's, I think, our biggest challenge. But the numbers show we are serious. You can kind of tell by the push-back that you just saw that was given to Senator Joe Lieberman, that they're now taking us seriously because they're fighting us and frankly, doing some pretty dirty tactics of threatening, threatening people who are working with No Labels, threatening them and their future and, sadly, bringing up some bad tactics that I won't get into detail at this point in time.

Richard Helppie  

When you think about voting blocks that could swing to No Labels, alright, let's...like if you look over on the Republican side, we know the narrative Trump's so far ahead he can't be caught, yet not a single vote has been made yet. Iowa caucuses haven't happened yet. But hey, it's a slam dunk for Trump. But then you look at the combined total of Haley and DeSantis and you say, okay, we've got, you know, whatever the numbers run out, let's just say a floor of 20% and maybe a high in the low 30s. If Trump's the nominee, what's going to happen to the DeSantis and Haley voters? I'm sure the Republicans are thinking, well, they're going to go into the Trump camp. Not a bad bet if that's the only choice but potentially, given an opportunity to still not back Donald Trump and given an opportunity with a viable program like No Labels, that could be a voting bloc coming from the Republican side. Any insight into that?

Pat McCrory  

I think you've nailed it. There's a large majority of Democrats right now who don't want Biden, there's almost a majority of Republicans that don't want Trump and you're leaving out the other big voter - that's the independent voter. I'll give you an example of my own state of North Carolina. 36% of the voters in North Carolina are registered now as Independent - larger than both the Democratic and Republican Party. So you can even see by the ninth most populous state, if 36% of the people registered Independent they're saying, I don't like the choices being provided. We're seeing this throughout the nation; North Carolina is not an anomaly. This is happening in Michigan, this is happening in even California. You're having people go, can't we do better than this? And so I think the numbers speak for themselves. The disenchanted Republicans, the disenchanted Democrats and the Independent voter, they form a coalition in the mid to high 30s. That's winner take all, a plurality of the votes state by state. We've got a new movement that just started in the United States of America to protect this thin document we call the Constitution, which is the only thing protecting us from anarchy. Who would have imagined...I would have never imagined a year ago that I'd be working with Dr. Ben Chavis, who was labeled as a left wing extremist. I knew him as that. He knew me as a right wing extremist because we were both labeled incorrectly. We got together and we find out we agree on most issues, and we agree with civil dialogue, and we care for our country, and we're going to put our country over the party. I know a lot of Republicans that run for Congress say I'm going to put country over party, but the minute they get to DC they don't because in order to get leadership they've got to get in line, they've got to get along or they're purged. That's what both parties are doing; do not go against the leadership or we will purge you, we will cancel you. That's not what No Labels is all about. No Labels is understanding that there are some complex issues out there. When Ben Chavis and I talk, or Joe Lieberman I talk - and we talk about the economy, we're talking about the border, we talked about the Middle East or Ukraine - we understand these complex issues that require civil dialogue and real serious examination; not a litmus test. I'm really enjoying this idealistic, yet pragmatic group of people who have begun a movement to change America and to protect America for future generations.

Richard Helppie  

Look with a quality ticket, No Labels would give Americans an opportunity to vote against both Joe Biden and Donald Trump and against this raucous noise that passes for political discourse, when it's really nothing but vitriol and negativity.

Pat McCrory  

Let me just say one other thing. Yeah, they'll have the chance to vote against somebody but more than anything else, they'll have a chance to vote for something that they're proud of. Again, we're looking at Republicans and Democrats, most likely a bipartisan ticket. We're looking at people from the military, from business and from current and past politics. I mean, that's a pretty big field; we look forward to it. And they'll be looking at us when we make that determination. So I think we've had a great opportunity to solve some of the complex problems that we're ignoring and kicking down the road for the next generation to deal with and by then it might be too late.

Richard Helppie  

Well, the platform is solid. Again I encourage people to go to NoLabels.org, look up Common Sense. It's plain language laid out from Social Security to facing the realities of where we're at. Both major parties have gone into this spending and said, my spending is better than your spending - as the deficit runs into $32 trillion. We have a border that we can't find, we have rampant inflation, we have wars and we're not sure whether our federal law enforcement agencies are doing an honest job. I don't know that anybody wants to return to the days of the Trump administration with a seat of the pants operation with so much juvenile behavior. Donald Trump had opportunity after opportunity to behave like an adult and execute the offices of the presidencies and all he's done is proven that he just wants to be there for himself. It's a vanity project for him. I don't hear what he will do for the country. So we have two major parties trying to get us all afraid and my life experience says, don't react when someone's trying to make you afraid. Listen carefully, when someone's trying to reason. Governor McCrory, that earned media spot, it is going to take a lot of money to get out there with reason. Are the federal election dollars going to be available to No Labels? Where's the integrity coming from the journalist side that's going to cover the story versus the narrative? How's this going to get out there?

Pat McCrory  

Well, I think first of all, it's up to us to get on all the ballots, because without getting in on the ballots, we don't have that leverage and so that's - I can't tell you enough - that's our first goal. Our second goal is to bring a platform which we've done with a booklet, The Common Sense booklet, which talks about 30 issues which you don't hear any of the candidates doing at this point in time. And then the third is to pick a viable slate, where they will run a campaign. I think once we pick a viable slate, or make that decision to do that, I don't think the media can ignore us anymore because they see the same statistics we do. They know that 60-70% of the people don't like what's being offered and therefore they're going to have a viewing audience that's interested in this. That's what it all comes down to, so the media will have to get on board whether they like it or not. There will be pressure not to get on board but they will get on board and then I think the American people will get on board through donations. I think we've got plenty of time to do that. I mean, if we pick two viable candidates, the word will get out very quickly. Their name ID will be out there very quickly. I know the game. I've played the game. If you're good, you will get out there.

Richard Helppie  

Okay. People, donate to No Labels today.

Pat McCrory  

Again, No Labels is a nonprofit so if you donate to NoLabels.org and we accept your donation, that would be toward the effort to get ballot access. We welcome that because there's a lot of money being spent by us [due to] forces that you wouldn't believe, that are spending a lot of legal money putting roadblocks up - including my own state; they delayed us even though we followed all the rules. Some groups delayed us two months from certifying our signatures. So we welcome your donations but again we're not a political campaign, No Labels. So once we select candidates, definitely those candidates will be soliciting donations. But we would love for you to donate to NoLabels.org and participate in the nonprofit and help us get ballot access because without that, we're wasting time.

Richard Helppie  

It's a little ironic that people are claiming they're defending our democracy by shutting off ballot access and giving people a choice.

Pat McCrory  

It's amazing from people who talk about the opposite. Accusing others of denying people access and they're the ones who are blocking our access. So there's a little bit of hypocrisy.

Richard Helppie  

And look, those negative media narratives are going to be crafted as the established media ecosystem tries to guess who the candidate might be. I won't name any of them here. We've all read the same names, but they're getting ready to try to pillory and try to knock down those candidates by name. But look, I think back to the inauguration days in 2017 and 2021, following the elections of 2016 and 2020 and we have riots in the streets and buildings burning and great outrage, and I'm thinking if Joe Biden is re-elected, or Donald Trump is elected again, how's it going to be any different? And then I wonder, what would the mood of the country be if No Labels can put together 270 electoral votes and there we are in January in 2025, a year from now, and a unity ticket is there to take the office of the president and vice presidency. When you think about that day, what kind of thoughts do you have?

Pat McCrory  

Man, it's a dream and I think of Martin Luther King having a dream. Ben Chavis and I - I think this was [what] brought us together because I've had to deal with riots as a mayor and as a governor. I've had to call the National Guard due to this violence where people are trying to solve problems through violence, not through civil dialogue. And, of course, Ben Chavis, after the assassination of Martin Luther King - Ben was working for Martin Luther King as a young 21 year old at the time - remember the riots throughout, including in Michigan and Detroit after King was assassinated? We can't go back to those days and yet we're getting close to it. The only thing that protects us from this lack of civility or this anarchy is the Constitution. And that's what I think brings Ben Chavis and I together is that we don't want anarchy, we want civil dialogue, we want to protect our Constitution, that thin, thin sheet of paper, that silly thing that protects; we either have civility or anarchy. I'm for civility and I think No Labels will bring a smile on everyone's face. Finally, we have mature people who are talking to each other and look for agreement and then when they disagree, they respect the disagreement, they're not name calling, they're not into labeling people. They're into problem solving and solutions and results. People will go okay, this is what we're looking for. I'm excited about it. By the way, throughout this process, we were hoping we weren't going to have to do this. We thought the two parties would wake up by now. This was always an insurance policy. Well, we might have to call in the insurance policy at this point in time. We'll find out in a very short period of time, it's coming up very quickly.

Richard Helppie  

Well, I share your optimism because one of my favorite quotes of all times is Winston Churchill, that Americans will do the right thing, after they've tried everything else. 

Pat McCrory  

Well, they have a statue in London, right near Churchill - they have Abraham Lincoln. And the last successful third party was Abraham Lincoln.

Richard Helppie  

Obviously he saved the country. Maybe that's what we're looking at now. Several years ago on the Fourth of July I had an editorial that I did that turned out to be so popular we run it every year. I don't know if we're running again but basically I asked the question, if you're going to design a country today from a blank sheet of paper, what would it look like? And the conclusion is our Constitution is pretty damn solid. We've got a lot of those pieces in place, but it takes people of honor and integrity and moral strength to make sure that that democracy works. I share your view that the Republicans and the Democrats have gotten away from the Constitution. In my most recent column I said if the Republicans or the Democrats were arrested today and charged with practicing democracy, you couldn't get a conviction; there's just not enough evidence.

Pat McCrory  

Well, you've got to remember, in the Constitution there's no mention of the political parties. In fact, Washington warned us about the political parties in 1787, I believe, and maybe his predictions ended up being true. But we're here to protect the Constitution, not the political parties. I'm not saying the political parties are bad, I'm just saying they're doing a bad job right now.

Richard Helppie  

Think about this. So we have this inauguration day and now how does No Labels govern given there's no down ballot support, there are no senators that are No Label, there are no governors, there are no representatives in the US House? How does an independent executive branch start to mend the country?

Pat McCrory  

Well, I think they're going to have to listen to the American people. And if they don't listen to the American people, believe me I know, it's a politician. If you don't follow what the American people want, you will be defeated. I think if there's a groundswell of support we actually win this, which that is our goal. That's what the numbers show can happen. They're going to have no choice but to support us because the American people said, you've got to work with this new president. I think it can work. No Labels has been around for at least 11-12 years and they came up with the concept of the problem solvers caucus so we already have a group of people who enjoy working together. Especially with a divided nation - we've got to first recognize we have a divided nation - you can't just stay in your corners and not get anything done. You have to get something done. And that's what the American people are demanding, for example, in immigration. And so if it's going to be representative democracy, I think the congressional branch is going to have to listen and see that directive. That's my idealism. But it's also some pragmatism that I think will happen if in fact, a ticket is placed on the ballot and the two candidates run a successful campaign. I think there will be two people who can help unite the country and also unite the problem solvers that are elected to get results in DC.

Richard Helppie  

I hope that perhaps the leadership of the Democrats and the Republicans will help their membership get in line. I know you'll recall that on the day of the inauguration, Jerry Nadler said, we're going to impeach this guy [he was] speaking about just elected President Trump. So look, I am bullish about the country. I think that we have three bad actors here; they're called the Republicans, the Democrats and the established media ecosystem. I encourage my listeners, my viewers, and my readers, to move away from that. Pick someone else. If people are aware now how they're being treated and manipulated we can come together and solve these problems. Governor, you've been very generous with your time. Is there anything that we need to cover or any closing remarks that you have for The Common Bridge?

Pat McCrory  

I'll just end by saying that we're talking about our country. We're talking about the future generations. We're still an experiment; let's let this experiment continue. When you have an experiment, you have to make changes and sometimes step on the status quo. That's exactly what we're doing but we're not doing it for ego or power, we're doing it for the right reasons. We ask you to join No Labels and if you want any more information, look at NoLabels.org. We welcome you getting involved in this tremendous grassroots group. 

Richard Helppie  

We've been talking today with the former governor of North Carolina, the Honorable Pat McCrory, member of the No Labels organization, NoLabels.org, potentially a way out of the political duopoly, this morass that we're stuck in. With our guest, Governor McCrory, this is your host, Rich Helppie, signing off on The Common Bridge.

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