Ruin or Renewal? Thoughts on America’s Third Century

Henry Olsen

Law & Liberty | September 2019

Our political contests are increasingly bitter and render normal political decision making impossible. It is tempting to assume that past will be prologue, that our current divisions are temporary and will fade in short order. Tempting, but wrong.

This essay briefly describes the primary natures of our political divisions. It explains why our Constitutional order has failed to prevent these divisions from becoming so potent. Finally, it explores the possibility of forging a renewed American identity that might offer a hope of preserving our ancient institutions and underlying beliefs.

Our primary political divisions are now over values. One set of Americans want to live in one manner while another wants to live in another. Moreover, the types of values over which we differ are very difficult to compromise. As such, both sides in this dispute fear the victory of the other, thereby imbibing political disagreements with the language and attitudes of war.

There are two axes in this conflict. The first we can label a battle over the values of conscience; the second we can label a battle over the values of action.

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