This week, the Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth (where my day job is to be the director) has been hosting a conference, "Going to Extremes: The Fate of the Political Center in American Politics." The papers can be found here. The discussion has been excellent--lots of interesting ideas for an economist to pick up from a group of thoughtful political scientists.
Toward the end of the conference, a discussant brought out a contrast between a centrist's identification with his party and with his constituency. What does the centrist do if the party's position disagrees with his constituents' preferences? The answer, spoken from the party leadership to the representative, used to be, "Vote with your constituency, because we want you back." Now, I'm not so sure.