There is no center

Vache Folle, on this “center-right vs center-left nation” garbage:

I keep hearing folks remark that America is “Center-Right”, but nobody ever seems to ask them what they mean by that. Just where is this Center of which they speak?

Let us imagine the political spectrum as a straight line in keeping with the usual metaphor. If that line is infinite in length, as straight lines are, then any point on the line would be the “center” because there would be an infinite length on either side of the point. If America is even one point to the right, would that make it “Center-Right”? And what would that even mean? Nothing really unless you have some definition of the center.

Exactly.  In fact, in more ways than that one, there’s no such thing as the “center”.

Take the common description of the “center” in modern US politics.   It’s shorthand for those that don’t particularly side with either — relatively within the mainstream, of course.  If that’s the case, then it’d include everyone from the willfully ignorant who barely pay attention and should reconsider being involved at all, to religious statists with “populist” views on economics, to the general “hands off my wallet, eyes out of my bedroom” quasi-libertarian types.  This pile-up is why saying that a party must “move to the center” is nonsense.

Ok, say that despite it making no sense you still accept the concept of “the center” and all that are included in it.  Problem is, people don’t tend to pick at the ballot box like they pick at a buffet.  The mainstream media image of calculating automatrons with a checklist and a blood vow to pull the lever for whoever fills the most checks is bunk.   This is because politics is also cultural.  Consider the following:

-Say hypothetically you fit the social conservative/fiscal populist mold — “Tony Perkins is right on culture, Nader is right on economics!”.  Chances are, if you’re a white guy from rural Alabama, you’re already voting Republican.  Sure, they’re clearly not anti-corporate or concerned for the proverbial Little Guy, but they hate abortion & gays, and so do you, dammit!

-Now, same beliefs as above, but you’re black.  Pulling that Republican lever got really difficult all of a sudden, didn’t it?  “Yeah they hate gays & abortion, but they also hate ME!  Fuck that!”

-Ok, you’re now the quasi-libertarian.  You’re not an anarchist, the actual Libertarian Party seems to be a bunch of kooks to you, but in general getting the government out of your life appeals to you.  Question is why?  Everyone has their particular sticking points with the State, what are yours?  If you’re an avid hunter from Texas with a sizeable gun collection, a huge truck, an autographed photo of you & Jeff Foxworthy, and a lack of knowledge of the size of the corporate welfare state vs the rest of it, you probably see hordes of liberals & hippies in your nightmares…

-…but if you’re a quasi-libertarian recent college grad with a tech job, an apartment in the city, and a bong on your living room table, and you’ve argued with people about torrent site preference, chances are your fears are more along the lines of people that remind you of your grandparents (who still can’t use a VCR, let alone a computer) deciding what you can and cannot do while at your computer desk.  Honestly, you’re screwed either way, but you’re probably too distracted by the fact that the next commander in chief has the same model Blackberry you have to listen to me.

This type of confusion and irrationality is just a sign of something I’ve long believed about “mainstream” politics: they pick you more than you pick them.  How else to explain a son & grandson of Navy admirals suddenly becoming an advocate for “Average Joe” at election time & the winner that turned out to think Hillary Clinton at State was a good idea being the candidate whose argument during the primary was effectively “on foreign policy this woman is an idiot”?


About b-psycho

Left-libertarian blogger & occasional musician.
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