Monday, July 10, 2006

The Center

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world ...

— William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming, 1919

The Common Wisdom in politics is run to the center. Supposedly, Bill Clinton was the master of triangulation; moving enough to the Center to get what you want by giving the other side some of what they want. This used to be called compromise, but that word seems to be out of favor now.

Mathematically, opinions are usually on a normal distribution — the familiar bell-shaped curve. In this situation, the candidate that's closest to the center of the curve will get the most votes. Undecided votes are considered to be in the center.

Note that I said usually. If everybody pulls back into their own side of the argument, the opinions become polarized. This is represented by two overlapping bell curves. If they are far enough apart that there's a dip between them, moving to the center will lose votes.

Currently, it looks to me like our polarized curves are not only far apart, they're in different universes. The one on the left is the traditional Liberal-Conservative distribution while the one on the right might be thought of as the Neocon-Theocrat axis. There's simply no way to appeal to both. Unfortunately, right now, the N-T axis is controlling the terms of political discourse and attracting a good chunk of the right-hand side of the left (L-C) curve.

Yo! Democrats! Stop moving to the Center (which doesn't really exist) and you can pick up the whole left-hand curve — practically everybody. Your friendly average "conservative" (yes, they really do exist) has no interest in massive deficits, giveaways to Halliburton, foreign empire building, gay bashing, or Christianism.

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