“On the Alchemy of Party” –Prof. Hadley Arkes in The Catholic Thing

Prof. Arkes switches our focus for a moment from considering the 2016 presidential candidates as the individual personalities of Trump and Clinton, to considering them as standard bearers of their respective parties. In a piece for The Catholic Thing“On the Alchemy of Party,” Prof. Arkes discusses how the parties have absorbed into themselves different hierarchies of values. Those values are a compass that will check, in part, their candidates. Some excerpts:

“But what has been striking to me is that the frustration over these choices has been focused on the persons here, on Trump and Hillary Clinton – as though the measure of these two persons exhausted the range of questions that we need to weigh seriously in making a judgment this year. What I find curiously absent from that conversation is an understanding of the meaning of political parties – and what makes them different from any other organization in the landscape. And what is missing at the same time is an appreciation of that “alchemy” that parties are able produce: those wondrous blends they mold as they bring different groups into coalition, and induce them to treat the interests of their allies as their own.”

“What is gained in appealing to one group may come at the cost of alienating another. The statecraft in building a party is to reconcile the interests of the groups coming together in alliance, so that they can stay together in a stable way. As the parties do that, they find themselves, in effect, working out a set of principles that explain how these interests can converge. And as they do that, they are doing nothing less than developing a perspective on the regime itself: for they are making their way to the principles that explain how they see the rightful ends of the law, and the rightful uses of political power in pursuing those ends.”

“It is not simply a choice, then, in this election, between two repellent candidates at the head of their tickets. It matters profoundly as to whether we will be given an administration filled, for the most part, with people drawn from either of these parties, offering radically different views of the regime and the way we shall live together.”

 Read the whole column here.