Starting Points

At Starting Points, we take the long view of American politics. Non-partisan and interdisciplinary, we aim to understand American politics by looking before and beyond our current political situation—before to the historical, cultural and intellectual roots of American politics, and beyond to the overarching ideas and guiding ideals of our unique political tradition.

LATEST ARTICLES

Do We Need A Compass?
October 16, 2017 by Andrea Radasanu
- A Starting Points Conversation featuring the founding editor of Compass, Andrea Radasanu
In God We Trust: Reconciling Religiosity in a Secular Nation
October 12, 2017 by Tess Saperstein
- The recent evolution of the Religious Right underscores the value that most Americans place on the separation of church and state. Religion is able to influence American politics only insofar as it reflects the expression of individual political opinions as motivated by religious belief.
Montesquieu and Despotism: Author Interview with Vickie Sullivan
October 9, 2017 by The Political Theory Review
- A Political Theory Review interview with Vickie Sullivan about her new book, Montesquieu and the Despotic Ideas of Europe
Exit Left: Author Interview with Robert S. Taylor
October 2, 2017 by The Political Theory Review
- A Political Theory Review interview with Robert S. Taylor about his new book, Exit Left
Free Time: Author Interview with Julie Rose
September 25, 2017 by The Political Theory Review
- A Political Theory Review interview with Julie Rose about her new book, Free Time
What Did the Constitutional Convention Do with Slavery?
September 17, 2017 by Mary Sarah Bilder
- A Starting Points Constitution Day Conversation featuring Mary Sarah Bilder, author of Madison's Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention.
Living the Natural Law in an Age of Natural Rights
September 11, 2017 by Douglas Kries
- The natural law has much to contribute to our rights-focused political discourse. Three strategies can help those committed to the natural law to bring this contribution to bear in our time.
Do We Need a Natural Law Theory of the State?
September 4, 2017 by Lee Ward
- Is natural law equipped to ground a normative theory of the liberal democratic state in this era of the great struggle between globalization and its opponents?
Natural Justice and the Amistad
August 28, 2017 by Justin Dyer
- John Quincy Adams’ oral argument in the Amistad case is notable for its explicit appeal to the authority of the Declaration of Independence and to the practical political relevance of “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”
Executive Exoneration to Congressional Clemency
August 21, 2017 by Edward Green
- The presidential pardoning power is valuable, but it must be circumscribed to a much greater extent than it currently is if it is to continue to have a positive effect on the governmental system of the United States.
Author Interview with Mark Alznauer
August 12, 2017 by The Political Theory Review
- A Political Theory Review interview with Mark Alznauer about his new book, Hegel's Theory of Responsibility
Trump’s Twist on Identity Politics
August 7, 2017 by James F. Pontuso
- Trump has been successful with his base because he has given voice to those who feel like victims for being patriots.
Feminism, Transgenderism and the Politics of Identity
July 31, 2017 by Scott Yenor
- Following the logic of the feminist revolution toward its embrace of transgender rights provides insights into its unpredictable character.
The Career of American Feminism and its Rolling Revolution
July 24, 2017 by Scott Yenor
- The success of the second-wave feminist project requires a fundamental revolution in society’s mores and institutions. This revolution is closely connected with Dewey’s progressive political project.
Author Interview with Peter Steinberger
July 17, 2017 by The Political Theory Review
- A Political Theory Review interview with Peter Steinberger about his new book, The Politics of Objectivity
Author Interview with Steven Smith
July 10, 2017 by The Political Theory Review
- A Political Theory Review interview with Steven Smith about his new book, Modernity and Its Discontents
From the Editor: The Declaration of Independence and the History of Ideas
July 4, 2017 by S. Adam Seagrave
- The Declaration echoed the united voices of the ancients and moderns on the idea of nature’s relevance for politics, and highlighted the constructive character of preceding European political thought.
Author Interview with Ryan Patrick Hanley
July 3, 2017 by The Political Theory Review
- A Political Theory Review interview with Ryan Patrick Hanley about his new book, Love's Enlightenment: Rethinking Charity in Modernity
Plutocrats and Demagogues: The Prophetic Warning of Montesquieu
June 26, 2017 by Nicholas W. Drummond
- The French political thinker Baron de Montesquieu predicted the divisiveness of our current political climate. He also anticipated the two major threats likely to emerge in large democratic republics like the United States: plutocrats and tyrant demagogues.
James Madison: Politician or Political Theorist? Part II
June 19, 2017 by James H. Read and Kevin R. C. Gutzman
- A Starting Points Conversation featuring James Read and Kevin Gutzman
James Madison: Politician or Political Theorist? Part I
June 12, 2017 by James H. Read and Kevin R. C. Gutzman
- A Starting Points Conversation featuring James Read and Kevin Gutzman
Are “All Men Created Equal” after Darwin? Part II
June 5, 2017 by Ken Blanchard and Thomas J. Kaiser
- A Starting Points Conversation featuring Ken Blanchard and Thomas J. Kaiser
Are “All Men Created Equal” after Darwin? Part I
June 5, 2017 by Ken Blanchard and Thomas J. Kaiser
- A Starting Points Conversation featuring Ken Blanchard and Thomas J. Kaiser
On Madison’s Majoritarianism
May 29, 2017 by Cary Federman
- As Madison argued both in 1833 and in 1787-88, majority rule reflects the best version of democratic governance given the limitations of human nature and our constitutional arrangements.
Author Interview with John T. Scott
May 25, 2017 by The Political Theory Review
- A Political Theory Review Podcast Interview with John T. Scott about his new book, The Routledge Guidebook to Machiavelli’s The Prince
The May Resolution and the Declaration of Independence
May 22, 2017 by John Schmeeckle
- A common starting point for analyzing both the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Bill of Rights is a neglected earlier document: the Continental Congress's Resolution of May 10 and 15, 1776.
Thanks, Moms
May 14, 2017 by Mary Beth McConahey
- Much has changed for American mothers over the past two hundred and forty-one years, but like the mothers who preceded us, we’re raising children. We’re making citizens. We’re perpetuating the project of 1776.
A Nation Without a Soul? A Response to Sarah L. Houser’s “Accountability Nationalism”
May 8, 2017 by Aaron Q. Weinstein
- Nationalism and religious life are intricately intertwined in the United States. A “civil religion of the Nones,” if it comes into existence, could portend significant changes in American nationalism.
Author Interview with Catherine H. Zuckert
May 4, 2017 by The Political Theory Review
- A Political Theory Review Podcast
Civic Myth in the Age of Trumpian Reality: Part I
May 1, 2017 by Alan Gibson
- The sweep of American history yields four distinct narratives of American identity, or civic myths. An ethnically inclusive, multicultural narrative of national identity fused from our most prominent American stories has the best chance of promoting economic prosperity while also projecting a superior normative vision of America to its own citizens and the world.
Civic Myth in the Age of Trumpian Reality: Part II
May 1, 2017 by Alan Gibson
- Hope for building a shared narrative of national identity lies in the formation of an inclusive civic myth based upon the Gettysburg narrative and the Horatio Alger story.
A Nation with the Soul of a Church: Principles and Practice in American National Identity
April 24, 2017 by Sarah L. Houser
- It is best to think of having a national identity as sharing a sense of accountability for the actions of one’s country. To identify as an American means to take some sort of ownership in the collective actions of its people, to understand those actions as in some way one’s own.
National Identity and Helping Fellow Americans
April 17, 2017 by Elizabeth Theiss-Morse
- If the national community needs people to behave selflessly by giving to charities, paying taxes willingly, and supporting government programs to help those less fortunate, then it is those who strongly identify as Americans and who have an inclusive view of who counts as an American who are the main contributors to the nation’s well-being.
The Democratic Lineage of Trump’s Ethnic Nationalism
April 13, 2017 by Benjamin E. Park
- Donald Trump’s rhetoric and proposed policies are a reminder that America has always had as much ethnic as civic foundations for its nationalist imagination.
American Anthem: The National Anthem and African American Nationhood
April 10, 2017 by Stephanie Shonekan
- Until the work of racial reconciliation in the U.S. is done, questions will remain and the Star Spangled Banner will fall short of fitting snugly and comfortably on the proud shoulders of those who expect more from their country.
The Mystic Chords Of Memory: Reflections on American Identity II
April 6, 2017 by Peter C. Myers
- A pervading theme of Madison’s and Lincoln’s reflections on American identity is the moral and psychological realism that informs both men’s reflections. The second installment of a two-part essay.
The Mystic Chords Of Memory: Reflections on American Identity I
April 5, 2017 by Peter C. Myers
- Disputes touching the question of national identity have arisen throughout our history. Overarching all such disputes is the fundamental question: What does it mean to be an American? The first installment of a two-part essay.
Let Middlebury be Middlebury. And BYU be BYU.
April 3, 2017 by Peter Augustine Lawler
- DeVos and Trump trumpet school choice in the spirit of deregulation and in the service of equal citizenship. The same opportunities for a variety of kinds of quality education should be available to everyone—and not just folks in their bubbles. The focus should be on sustaining through deregulation the diversity in our whole system of higher education.
America First but not America Over Others
March 27, 2017 by Juliana Geran Pilon
- When Donald Trump states that our nation’s interests come first, he is indeed following in the Founders’ footsteps. Putting American self-interest first does not, though, imply a crassly selfish or imperialistic disregard for the interests and rights of other nations.
Humility, Hubris, and the Next Supreme Court Justice
March 20, 2017 by Zachary K. German and Robert J. Burton
- The idea of humility as virtue and hubris as vice in the exercise of judicial power has been an enduring theme in American political and legal discourse. It knows no partisan, ideological, or historical boundaries. For that reason, it behooves us to pierce through its rhetorical uses and search for a more theoretical, more principled understanding of the concept.
Edmund Burke’s Alternative: Political Theory and the American Revolution
March 13, 2017 by John G. Grove
- The ultimate lesson Burke drew from the American crisis was starkly opposed to the one suggested by the Declaration: That equality as a guiding principle actually distorts our perception of political justice by blinding us to meaningful and essential differences within a body politic.
Confronting Globalization: Brexit and the American Revolution
March 9, 2017 by Jonathan Chandler
- There is a parallel between the American decision to leave the British Empire in 1776 and the British vote to leave the EU in 2016: both movements emphasized their localist credentials through a confrontational narrative that was anti-establishment, anti-corporate and anti-globalist.
Due Process and the Death Penalty
March 6, 2017 by Alan Rogers
- In the United States Constitution, the Founding Fathers safeguarded the rights of the accused by limiting the power of the state. The Terry Williams case illustrates all too clearly what happens when prosecutors disregard Constitutional rules and principles.
The Dangers of “Aristocracy:” Grund’s Critique of Tocqueville’s Democracy in America
February 27, 2017 by Armin Mattes
- Bringing Aristocracy in America into dialogue with Tocqueville’s Democracy in America can help historians to better understand the nature of the conflict between “aristocracy” and “democracy”—an issue that may be more relevant even in our own time than many had thought.
Bridling the Unbridled: The American Constitution and The Presidency of Donald Trump
February 20, 2017 by Andrew D. Carico
- Whatever one may think of President Trump, perhaps the greatest hope for Making America Great Again is not found in a particular president but in the American people’s own charter of government: The Constitution of the United States.
History Without Reading
February 16, 2017 by Jim Cullen
- Recognizing, and acting, on the reality of student life as it is currently lived means imagining a world without books—broadly construed—as a means toward preventing their disappearance.
Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin
February 12, 2017 by Larry Arnhart
- On February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born in Hardin County, Kentucky; and Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England. The coincidence of their being born on the same day might lead us to think about the points of similarity in their lives.
Hamilton versus Jefferson in the Washington Administration
February 9, 2017 by Carson Holloway
- Starting Points Podcast: An Interview with Carson Holloway
The Humanities in a High Tech World
February 6, 2017 by Donald L. Drakeman
- Scientists and physicians can figure out whether a new drug actually extends lives, and mathematicians can calculate the costs, but science alone cannot provide a considered judgment about who should have those benefits and at what price.
Can American political thought be a resource for improving race relations in the U.S.?
February 1, 2017 by Lucas Morel and Melvin Rogers
- A Starting Points Conversation featuring Lucas Morel and Melvin Rogers

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