Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Is the Center of American Politics More Left or More Right?

Fred Siegel at Commentary magazine’s blog "Contentions" argues that it is shifting left. I think there is much superficial (which is not to say it is unimportant) evidence to support this particular "contention." Siegel gives a good deal of it. It is an interesting diagnosis of the American electorate and it is worth contemplating. Beyond that, however, I am interested in the causes . . . for in the causes of a perceived shift to the left, we may in fact discover that this "shift" is not a shift at all. I wonder whether the center in American politics really ever does "shift." Might it not be the case that it just sits there in the center minding its own business as "left" and "right" play tug-o-war for its attention? This is not to say that the center is daft or even disengaged . . . (though a case for more engagement certainly might be made). Rather, I am suggesting that the character and the attitudes of the American people are pretty deep-rooted--we don’t flutter in the wind or "shift" as much as either side would like. We cause the real shift; and that is the shift of the "left" and the shift of the "right." Those guys have to change themselves in order to appeal to us. They have to make themselves more like the center--or at least present their arguments in a way that brings aboard those in the center. They have to make a case to us and persuade us. And, when the side we’ve been supporting fails us or does not live up to its promises or our expectations . . . we drift away searching for alternatives.

There is a certain sense in which a desperate man will try anything to cure his cancer . . . if traditional therapies fail or his doctor seems to be giving him bad advice, he might even try a witch doctor. Is the American left the equivalent of a political witch doctor? In our current political situation that may be the case. The treatments they are prescribing are so patently absurd that it is hard to avoid the comparison. If the Dems are like witch doctors and the center is still turning to them, the question becomes what is it about the traditional therapies that have failed us? Were they inconsistently applied? (Yes.) Is the cancer too advanced? (I hope not.) Did the patient give it enough time to effect a result? (Probably not.) If not, did the doctor do his best to make a case for further treatment. (Clearly, no.)

It is certain, however, that blaming the patient (either for contracting the disease or for turning to unconventional treatments) is a waste of time and probably, also, unfair. If the center of American politics is to hold it has to be reminded about what is best in itself. It has to be asked to recall the things that have made it strong in the past and to be given some reasonable hope for the future. It does not want to cast its lot with the specious arguments of witch doctors and snake-oil salesmen. It wants to do the right thing. But the those who prescribe the right thing have to do a better job of understanding--not only what that right thing is--but also what appeals to their patient. The center cannot and will not be ignored in American politics. And the right would do well to remember that that is a good thing.

Discussions - 2 Comments

Interesting... very interesting... I am almost sure the discussion is somewhat pointless without clear definitions of right and left. After all if the center is still shifting towards Goldwater what does this mean in terms of conceptions of right and left? This means Guiliani? If 10 years from now the center shifts towards Ron Paul...then what does this mean? Well it might mean that some Democrat might declare the end of big government or that some Republican might get elected championing a humble foreign policy...what might that mean in practice?(Clinton+Bush?) I think the center is shifting towards Huckabee and Ron Paul and Guiliani...sort that one out. Oh and the center is also shifting towards HRC...

This is to say that all the discussion of shifting towards...is rather derivative...the center shifts in accordance with what it considers an argument. The center=what is and is not counted as an argument. So the second part of your rant is good. On a whole host of issues the center is like a patient...sometimes the center looks on as the right and left gesticulate...often times the center yawns and thinks itself assulted by an infomercial with strange testimonials designed to deceive. While desperate times make for desperate measures the center is admirably undesperate...desperation is more the province of the cheerleaders on the right and left. The sky is falling... quick surrender your liberties...evil republicans will rob the poor and elderly...Bush is a Nazi...Hillary can bake good cookies...the center says: Are you serious? Who are the true believers?

If you ask me the center is shifting towards skepticism of the right and the left...skepticism of competing witch doctor narratives...the center says:maybe they are both right?

Basically the center of american politics is deep seeded skepticism about government and politicans. If the center is optimistic it is optimistic out of spite towards politicians who are pesimistic. The center doesn't trust the president, it doesn't trust the congress, it doesn't trust CNN or FOX News, it doesn't trust Universities, it doesn't trust big business. The Center doesn't trust the NRA, the NAACP or the ACLU. The Center doesn't trust Churches, doesn't trust civic organizations, it certainly doesn't trust Mosques. If the center could coin money it would have a question mark as an emblem and "In Nothing we trust" would be its moto. The center doesn't trust lawyers, and it doesn't trust cops, the center doesn't trust generals and it doesn't trust those who don't trust generals. The center doesn't trust Hollywood, nor does it trust conspiracy theories...nor does it trust those who don't trust conspiracy theories. The center believes there are indians behind every tree...until a politician points to a tree and says:there are indians behind this tree...then the center knows that the tree is safe.

I am partially kidding...but if the center of american politics has changed it isn't clearly along the lines of right or left. For generations Americans have been told that government is the problem, not the solution. The Center accepts this now.(move to the right?) The Center used to trust presidents...even liberal ones like FDR...now the center doesn't trust Bush (move to the left?) Conservatives argue that our Universities have lost it...the center no longer trusts Universities(move to the right?) According to some conservatives Universities preach Multiculturalism which leads to the view that there is no truth, that everything is a ballancing act between competing witchdoctors and irrational cheerleaders. The center agrees and says all the more reason to distrust everything...(move to the left?)

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