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.