There is no place more despised in American politics right now than the center. Not the ideological center, necessarily, but the temperamental center. That space inhabited by people who recoil instinctively from bloody-knuckled partisanship and the collectivist demonization it requires, who lament the erosion of democratic norms and the delegitimization of mediating institutions. At a moment of intense polarization, when the time for choosing was yesterday, who has the patience for such scoldy fence-sitters?
You can find a lot of libertarians in this unhappy camp, averse as they usually are to the tribal political hysterics of the day. Flake is among the most libertarian members of the Senate; in the House, arguably the most temperamentally centrist member is the one who prefers describing himself with the (as-yet lower-case) l-word: Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.). Amash’s Twitter feed these days is filled with such cheery observations as, “Political discourse today is driven almost entirely by tribalism and bias and very little by principles and truth. We’ve come to a sad and dangerous place. Liberty cannot survive without virtue.”
But you can find a lot of anti-libertarian people in the temperamental center as well. Bill Kristol. John Kasich. Benjamin Wittes. The late John McCain, and the D.C. establishment that mourned him (and its own receding power) for a week last month. There is a whole cadre of anti-Trump conservatives who have not yet come to grips with the way their support for war, surveillance, spending, bailouts, and wink-nudge populism helped discredit their precious establishment in the first place.