Lots of leftists are beating up on Jim Messina, a wizard of President Obama’s presidential campaigns, for taking a job advising the UK Tories of David Cameron. To some observers it looks like utter hypocrisy: In exchange for filthy lucre, a soulless political operative who advises Democrats is now also going to advise the equivalent of the Republicans in another country!

I too am shocked and appalled, not by Messina but by the gobsmacking ethnocentrism of his critics. They don’t seem to realize that other countries have their own politics, which differ from those of the United States.

The center of British politics is well to the left of the center of U.S. politics. The “right-winger” David Cameron whom Messina will be advising opposes the death penalty, supports a right to abortion, extols the virtues of a single payer government-operated healthcare system and just expended enormous political capital on legalizing same-sex marriage. If he walked into a CPAC meeting he’d be torn to shreds rather than greeted as a fellow traveler. Indeed, on the death penalty and universal health care, he is to the left of most of the Democratic Party.

I don’t know Messina or his politics, so I can’t speak to his personal motivations. But I do know that given how much space there is between the political center of the U.S. and that of the U.K., there is plenty of room to allow the existence of reasonable people whose policy preferences are to the left of the American center and to the right of the British center. There is therefore no inherent contradiction between advising the Democrats in the U.S. and the Tories in the U.K. Indeed, it’s easy to understand as soon as you let go of the idea that the U.S. is the template for the rest of the world’s political arrangements.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor at Stanford University. @KeithNHumphreys