Larison makes an astute point:

People routinely say that they favor fewer government services in the abstract, but they don’t want to eliminate anything that benefits them. Paul Ryan has presented an impressive proposal to balance the budget and essentially eliminate the government’s entitlement liabilities over the long term, but everyone who has looked at it knows immediately that it is a political non-starter. Obviously, one reason why it is a non-starter is that there are simply too many constituencies benefiting from the programs that would be changed by Ryan’s proposal, but another reason is that for at least the last thirty years political conservatives have become steadily worse and worse at persuasion because they have allowed the “center-right nation” myth to make them complacent.

The “center-right nation” story has been something of a curse for conservatives, because it has convinced many of them that the public is automatically and instinctively on their side, and they keep relying on this to provide them with political success. If conservatives recognized that they are not facing a “center-right nation,” they wouldn’t necessarily be able to sell the public on proposals such as Ryan’s, but they would at least understand that they have to persuade a public that does not share their views. They might then realize that the public is not going to reward them simply for showing up and declaring their opposition to the other side.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to