A center-center country

Charles Krauthammer sees Tuesday’s election results as a “return to the norm” in which “a center-right country restore[d] the normal congressional map.” But I find it difficult to view this election as defining the normal map.
I say this mostly because the election occurred under abnormal (I hope) economic conditions. When the country votes in the shadow of almost 10 percent unemployment, the outcome is unlikely to tell us where things stand politically in normal times.
In addition, the party in power typically (though certainly not invariably) suffers losses at this stage of the cycle. And this president and his party demonstrated an extraordinary disregard for the will of the electorate, which had been communicated clearly through public opinion polls and the election of Scott Brown.
The last of these points convinces me that it did not require a “center-right” country to deal the Democrats the “shellacking” they received this week. A “center-center” country could be expected to produce Tuesday’s results in response to the hard-left agenda pushed by the Obama-Reid-Pelosi Democrats.
I think our country is more “center-center” than center-right. The political “center” is a relational concept. No one feels compelled to locate it where it was 50, 20, or even 10 years ago. Rather, the center is supposed to be at the midpoint of present mainstream political thinking.
It’s possible, of course, for the public’s deep political sentiments to shift quickly enough for the conventional wisdom about the ideological midpoint to be seriously in error. It has happened before. But, for the reasons stated above, I don’t see compelling evidence that it has happened now.
If the Dems had lost 60 plus House seats with the unemployment rate at 6 percent, I’d be more inclined to perceive a fundamental shift. But keep in mind that the Dems lost almost that many seats in 1994 during reasonably good economic times. This defeat prompted Bill Clinton to declare that the era of big government is over. Yet by the end of the decade, big government was polling pretty well.

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