Patrick Deneen is David A. Potenziani Memorial Associate Professor of Constitutional Studies at the University of Notre Dame. His previous “On the Square” articles can be found here.

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The Power Elite

From the June/July 2015 Print Edition

As the dust from the recent explosion over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act begins to settle, one thing is clear: Republicans and Christians lost, Democrats and gay activists won. Republican leaders initially ­supported the legislation for what was likely a combination of strategic political reasons and the belief that religious freedom is a positive good. Passage of RFRA laws was an intensifying demand in conservative Christian circles. Having concluded that the culture war was lost, conservative Christians retreated to the castle keep of American political order: the right to the free exercise of religion, a right that had been bolstered by the bipartisan passage of the federal RFRA law in 1993. Governor Mike Pence no doubt thought he was practicing good politics: giving his base something they dearly wanted, while only potentially alienating committed members of the opposition party.Mike Pence, Asa Hutchinson, and the Republican party were not blindsided by opposition to RFRA by gay rights activists. What knocked them back were major corporations, such as Apple, Walmart, and Angie’s List, and organizations such as the NCAA that denounced the law, in many cases announcing boycotts of Indiana. Had the only appreciable opposition to RFRA come from gay rights activists, RFRA would have been a smashing political success for Republicans. It would have made the right enemies while generating gratitude and energy in the base. They did not expect their usual friends in corporate America to join the opposition, which was an idiotic miscalculation given the fact that establishment outrage scuttled the Arizona RFRA last year. Continue Reading »

Against Great Books

From the January 2013 Print Edition

For many years, traditionalist thinkers have promoted the teaching of a set of core texts—the “great books”—as a vital element of a liberal arts education during a time when demands for multiculturalism led to the dismantling of a number of traditional programs of study. In more recent . . . . Continue Reading »

It’s a Destructive Life

From Web Exclusives

Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life portrays the decent life of a small-town American, George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), an everyman who saves his community from an evil Scrooge”Henry F. Potter (Lionel Barrymore)”and who only comes to realize his accomplishments by witnessing what terrors might have occurred had he never lived. George Bailey represents all that is good and decent about America: a family man beloved by his community for his kindness and generosity… . Continue Reading »

President Obama’s Campaign for Leviathan

From Web Exclusives

Based on a report in yesterday’s Bloomberg, the decision by the Obama Administration to require many religious institutions to provide contraception through existing health care plans is bearing electoral fruit: President Obama leads Mitt Romney among women by a remarkable 18-point margin. Though the HHS mandate represents an expansion of government power into the heart of many religious institutions, efforts to resist this expansion were portrayed by HHS Secretary Sebelius as a “war against women,” … Continue Reading »

“Forward” Into a Sterile Future

From Web Exclusives

Stumping in Iowa on May 24, President Obama declared, “We don’t need another political fight about ending a woman’s right to choose, or getting rid of Planned Parenthood, or taking away affordable birth control. We don’t need that. I want women to control their own health choices, just like I want my daughters to have the same economic opportunities as my sons. We’re not turning back the clock. We’re not going back there.” … Continue Reading »

E.J. Dionne and the Contradiction of Progressive Catholicism

From Web Exclusives

For over seven years, I have had a mailbox just above E.J. Dionne’s in the Department of Government at Georgetown University. E.J. and I have always shared cordial relationships, periodically getting together to discuss our shared and differing opinions on American politics. We have speculated on what might be a blood relationship, as my mother’s maiden name is Dionne and we both have family that hail from Fall River, Massachusetts, by way of French Canada… . Continue Reading »

“For the Salvation of Souls”: A Farewell to Georgetown

From Web Exclusives

In yesterday’s Washington Post, in anticipation of today’s address by Health and Human Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at Georgetown University as part of its graduation exercises, the editorial staff pronounced that “Georgetown Gets it Right.” Like many defenders of the invitation to Secretary Sebelius, the editorial at once denied that the invitation constituted an honor”since the event is not officially a “commencement” and an honorary degree is not being conferred”and that the invitation constituted an opportunity for the legitimate “exchange of ideas.” … Continue Reading »

A Culture of Choice?

From First Thoughts

Rod Dreher calls attention to an essay by Michael Brendan Dougherty , who asks pointed questions about the failure of the thirty-six year old pro-life movement to make any significant gains against a regime of unrestricted abortion. Dougherty’s essay strikes a long and resonant chord with me: . . . . Continue Reading »

Culture, Not Morality?

From First Thoughts

An article in yesterday’s Inside Higher Education discusses a new book by a Notre Dame anthropologist that explores the reasons for widespread plagiarism among today’s college students.  In particular, its author recommends a departure from the prevailing system of detection and . . . . Continue Reading »