Anyone feeling centered these days?

Glenn Reynolds links to Daniel Henninger's thought-provoking piece in the Opinion Journal, the thesis of which is best expressed in the subtitle:

"Today's voters crave ideology."
Actually, I think the following title would be more accurate:
"Today's "base" voters crave partisan ideology."
While Mr. Henninger's piece is well thought out, I think it's a bit short on analysis of the people who dislike (even detest) the Michael Moore, ideology as much as the Pat Robertson, AFA ideology. Far from being on the fringes, the people who feel this way tend to be in the majority. Are they they guilty of the "pragmatism" which Henninger characterizes as dominating the mainstream media?

Like most political analysts, Henninger identifies the spectrum as right wing, left wing, and (ugh) "middle":

People who crave the middle are simply going to be disappointed in 2008. The Democrats have abolished the middle, and the Republican middle has discredited itself. There is a reason John McCain markets himself as more right than center; he knows ideology matters just now. So do George Allen, Rudy Giuliani, Sam Brownback and the rest.

How Hillary Clinton triangulates in the current atmosphere is the Rubik's Cube of our time. But for the Web Democrats and GOP refugees from the Congress they thought they controlled, the puzzling is over. They're looking for candidates "who represent my ideas." Ideologues.

What's missing in the discussion of ideology-versus-pragmatism is any mention of libertarian ideology, and that's because the Republican base and the Democrat base both tend to abhor libertarianism in favor of communitarianism.

Libertarians like me are quite accustomed to being ignored by communitarians. I can't speak for all libertarians, but I get awfully sick of hearing people yell about how what they want is being ignored when I've been used to it for years. There is something degrading about hearing the outrage of people whose vociferous demands have been ignored when my ideology doesn't count at all.

I mean, imagine if I worked myself up to a full scale rant about how "it's high time that the president discussed the need to relegalize drugs!"

It would be laughable, and it doesn't matter at all how strongly I might want it to happen.

So, it's not that I don't have an ideology; it's that I'm asked to select between two ideologies I find morally abhorrent. And then, on top of that, I am now told that "ideology" has to be defined as either liberal or conservative.

With all respect to Mr. Henninger, it's a bit much.

If I seem like a pragmatist, it's not because I lack ideology. It's because I see no place for my ideology.

Does that place me in "the middle"? I don't see how. If I don't like communitarian thinking, but I am asked -- no, forced -- to choose between the communitarian left and the communitarian right, and I don't like either side, is it fair to paint me as being in the center?

(The problem may be mine. I may have become too accustomed to feeling off center. . .)

posted by Eric on 02.03.06 at 09:04 AM


Well, it's difficult to win elections without the ability to organize and rally large numbers of people around a cause (set of causes).

I speculate that libertarians, by their very nature, generally aren't the rally-ing type. You've mentioned many times in your blog your distaste for 'groupthink'. Libertarians are individualists and generally don't like being in, or being identified (pigeon holed) as members of a group. They'd rather stand on their own. The result is, once a critical mass of libertarians get to gether, their tendency is to want to disperse again rather than become more cohesive. An extreme sort of illustration might be something like 'The United Anarchists Party'.

Mick   ·  February 3, 2006 10:49 AM

"I can't speak for all libertarians, but I get awfully sick of hearing people yell about how what they want is being ignored when I've been used to it for years."
Classic! Libertarians are so well ignored that their being ignored is ignored.

Harkonnendog   ·  February 3, 2006 8:16 PM

This pollster who called me tonight asked me, "Democrat, Republican, or independent?" and I of course answered independent. A little later came the question, "liberal, conservative, or middle of the road?" and all I could answer was "no."

Allan Beatty   ·  February 4, 2006 12:51 AM

Obviously, what we need is an official, no-holds-barred, "LIBERTARIAN DAY OF OUTRAGE!"

Eric Scheie   ·  February 4, 2006 7:54 AM

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