Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Stuck In The Middle

I was reading a piece on Al-Jazeera entitled "Donald Trump and America's Failed Center," and it occurred to me that the piece never really talks about the American center, in favor of hand-wringing over the fact that the United States hasn't adopted more leftist policies. Complaining that White voters haven't moved "to progressive visions for radical change and a more inclusive politics" is not "centrist." Simply labeling the Democratic party "center right" does not mean that anything to their left is "the center."

But that brings up an interesting question - what is "the Center?" And does it actually exist? There is a persistent idea in politics that between the political wings represented by the Right and the Left, there is a separate group that can be identified. But I'm not so sure about that. When the Air Force was introducing jet aircraft into general service, the found that there is no such thing as the "average" pilot. That is, when you measure a group of people (in this case, Air Force pilots) on a number of different characteristics, you will find that very few, if any, people fall into the median range on a significant number of them. What the meant for the Air Force was that building a aircraft cockpit for the "average" pilot made it a poor fir for nearly everyone, and what was needed instead were controls that could be independently adjusted for a fairly wide range of body types.

If one imagines politics as working the same way, the problem becomes evident. While you might be able to identify centrist positions on many issues, and even find that a significant portion of the population holds a centrist position on any given issue, any given person may only be in the "center" on a very limited number of issues, if any. Therefore, there really isn't a large enough constituency for a broad slate of centrist positions for a single political party of coalesce around and elect candidates, and by doing so drive policy, on.

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