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.


Civic Myth in the Age of Trumpian Reality: Part II
May 1, 2017 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 ...

America First but not America Over Others
March 27, 2017 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 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 ...