Thursday, November 13, 2008

What Center?

In his short, but brilliant, piece on NRO, James Gimpel points out that the conventional (and outdated) model of political participation and affiliation might not really be true. You've heard this theory before: The is a vast continuum with conservatives on the right, liberals on the left and a big bulge of moderates in the middle. It is thought that one should adopt "centrist" policy positions to attract this great multitude of moderates and undecideds.

But who are these staunch centrists and what policies really excite them? It turns out that most of them don't really care much about politics one way or the other. They don't care what you stand for so long as you are energetic and entertaining (and so long as their friends like you). Personally, this explains a lot about the recent election and the state of political intelligence in our country.

Ordinary Americas have not suddenly lurched to the left (nor can we conclude that they have come home to the right, should we do well in 2010). Rather, it seems that most Americans, for whatever reason, just don't really care to think about it too much. In one respect, it is comforting to know that Americans aren't just dying to be socialists (for the most part). But it's shocking to recognize the state of most people's political acumen (specifically, the lack thereof). American politics is less about policy nowadays and more about your number of friends on Facebook.

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