The Corner

Center-Right, Ctd.

John Hood writes that we are a center-right nation: “I’ve always understood the statement ‘America is a Center-Right nation’ to refer to the relative ease of forming electoral coalitions. While the exact percentages have varied a bit over the years, polls show that there are about 1.5 to 2 self-identified conservatives for every self-identified liberal in the American electorate.” But whether the fact that there are more self-identified conservatives than self-identified liberals makes it easier to form a center-right governing majority than a center-left one depends on whether the center is closer to the left or the right in its attitudes on the questions that move it politically–and that is something that varies from election to election.

Your definition implies something about durability, I take it. You wouldn’t say that America has been a center-left nation from late 2005 through today because it was relatively easier to see how a center-left majority could be formed than to see how a center-right one could be. So to say that “we are a center-right nation” seems to me to imply that we have had and will have a tendency to default to a conservative-centrist coalition unless some special factors intervene. On this understanding of the term I can see saying that we were a center-right nation for much of the last few decades. I don’t see how anyone can say with confidence that we still are (or that we are now a center-left one). It’s more accurate, I think, to say that we have a right, a left that is smaller in numbers, and a center that is up for grabs from election to election.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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