Does Joe Biden’s victory in 2020 represent the last gasp of an exhausted moderate tradition or does a potentially powerful center lie dormant in our embattled political system?
Oren Cass, executive director of American Compass, which seeks “an economic consensus that emphasizes the importance of family, community, and industry to the nation’s liberty and prosperity,” wrote in response to my inquiry:
I am not much of a believer in the idea of a political “center.” It seems to me that, by definition, the issues that our politics focus on at any moment in time are those on which people disagree.
One could, Cass continued,
find a massive center on all sorts of issues that the nation has long since reached a consensus: on support for a progressive tax system, old-age entitlements, women’s right to vote; opposition to communism, child labor, and so forth.
Insofar as the country struggles to resolve polarizing issues, Cass pointed to the emergence of a relatively recent phenomenon that has stymied efforts to reach agreement across party lines: the failure of both sides to agree on a common set of facts:
There is a particular set of what one might call epistemological issues that the country has probably been better at uniting on in the past than it is right now — that is, we can at least argue from the same reality even if we have different assumptions/preferences/values, and right now even that seems sometimes in doubt.