SMPA Junior Co-Founds First Bipartisan Student Organization at GW

Members of No Labels GW chapter with Jon Huntsman
December 08, 2016

By Steven Kelly, PCM '18

No Labels GW started out as a complaint.

As the primary season heated up in early spring 2016, it became clear that this election cycle would not be one of reconciliation or moderation.

No Labels GW co-founder Sara Neier and I watched the political discourse devolve into name-calling as proposed policies swung further and further toward the extremes.  

We only became more frustrated as we watched politicians trip over themselves to cater to the loudest, angriest voices in each party. As Sara put it, “I don’t get why these jokers can’t just compromise.”

With that simple complaint, Sara and I set out to create something constructive. We realized that the most politically active campus in the country lacked a bipartisan political advocacy student organization.

Together, Sara and I began talking with No Labels, a national political organization that seeks to revitalize and reemphasize the political center, about bringing a chapter at GW. Over the late weeks of March and the early weeks of April, Sara and I began to lay the groundwork for No Labels GW.

As the summer approached, Sara and I worked to get No Labels GW recognized as an official GW organization and recruited a handful of other students to serve on the club’s Board. By the beginning of the school year, we hit the ground running with events planning and recruitment.

No Labels GW has been busy. We hosted a watch party for the first Presidential debate and discussed what we saw with the club. We put on a grassroots advocacy training for our members, teaching them how to connect with citizens across the nation.

Following the elections, we hosted Bob Cusack, editor-in-chief  of “The Hill,” to discuss his experience covering this divisive presidential election at a strictly bipartisan outlet.

When Sara and I were first discussing the need for a dedicated bipartisan political organization on campus, we kept running into one central question. Why was there not already a bipartisan political organization at the most politically active campus in the country?

In our opinion, it's because of an unfortunate misunderstanding of the term “bipartisan.” GW students are passionate about their political beliefs, and “bipartisan” can feel mushy. Students don’t want their opinions watered down, simplified or artificially moderated.

But to us, that's not what bipartisanship is about. At No Labels GW, we don’t expect our members to check their political stances at the door. As long as you’re willing to listen, we want members of the GW College Democrats and Republicans, libertarians, independents and even the Whig Party to join.

We refuse to believe that Americans are so polarized that finding common ground is impossible. We believe there’s still room in the middle of the political Venn diagram for people of all partisan leanings to find agreement on issues.

Bipartisanship is a commitment to finding and acknowledging those shared areas of agreement and we hope No Labels can be a place for GW students to discover them.

Steven Kelly (BA '18) studies Political Communication, History, and Philosophy at the George Washington University. He is currently a communications intern at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. If you would like to get in touch with Steven and learn more about No Labels GW, email him at [email protected].