In search of the American center

On both sides of the Atlantic, if you tried to build a consensus politics based around what voters actually want, it would be very moderately culturally conservative and very moderately economically liberal, and it would sit low in the upper left quadrant of our chart — the place where Trump won voters who had previously voted for Obama.

But on both sides of the Atlantic, if you sought to place the elite consensus on the same chart, it be much closer to the emptiest of quadrants — the land of austerity and open borders, free trade and the permanent sexual revolution, the Simpson-Bowles plan and Emmanuel Macron.

Given populism’s derangements and divisions, this elite consensus can still win elections — witness Macron’s recent triumphs. But it constantly invites backlash and disillusionment. So the task of statesmanship should be to reconcile the wisdom in the elite view (of which there is some, here and there) with the wisdom of the wider public.