The James Wilson Foundation on Natural Rights and the American Founding

“On the Moral Alchemy of the Political Party”: Hadley Arkes in The Catholic Thing

In his column for The Catholic Thing, JWI Founder and Director Hadley Arkes reflects on the historical role of political parties in the U.S. and the state that they are in today. The parties of the present have lost their sense of morality and no longer know their place in our society, Arkes contends, noting that the values of the parties and the people that belong to them have changed significantly since their beginnings. There is no better example of this than the modern-day Democratic Party, which went from being the home of the poor farmer and factory worker to the home of the college-educated businessman and lawyer in the 21st century, while at the same time forgetting its roots in morality. Political parties, Arkes writes, must rediscover their roots in fixed principles if they want to succeed and contribute to the moral growth of the nation.

Some excerpts from the article:

“As Aristotle understood,  it was through the laws that the polity engaged in moral teaching.  When Congress barred racial discrimination in places of ‘public accommodation,’ it displaced private choice, and treated this policy as a matter of moral consequence, binding on everyone.   And in our own time those ‘political’ questions touch the gravest questions, reaching the very meaning of the ‘human person,’ who will come under the protection of the laws.”

Recent commentaries have largely filtered or purged the ‘moral’ from the public sense of the ‘political.’  And in the same way, they have also lost the sense also of the distinctly ‘moral’ work done by political parties. We have had a politics marked for more than 200 years by two dominant parties.  The parties have been radically reshuffled and reshaped over the years through the gravest crises in our politics where the regime itself has been redefined.

“The new Administration is also determined to promote transgenderism as a doctrine to be taught in public schools, and promoted in any organization that benefits from public funds and regulations.  At the same time, the Administration stands fully behind the teaching of the 1619 Project: that this American regime was founded for the preservation of slavery, and marked enduringly as corrupt.  Which is to say, one of our major parties has now incorporated a contempt for the American Founding and the institutions it put in place.”

Read the the full piece here.

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Law and liberty cannot rationally become the objects of our love, unless they first become the objects of our knowledge.
— James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1790