''The late Gore Vidal used to argue that the American idea rests on the proposition that the end doesn't justify the means, and I think he was right." - Stephen L. Carter, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale
Democracy cannot flourish when electoral politics is exalted above all things. The entire point of the concern for civil society is that a successful nation needs its people to be focused on matters more important than transitory partisan advantage. A nation where friends can no longer hold political discussions, for no other reason than that they disagree, is a nation not only in decline but, in the Weberian sense of nationhood-as-common-interest, on the verge of collapse.
And our decline matters. I am naive enough, in the innocence of late middle age, to believe that America should still be a beacon to the world, a nation worth imitating. Plenty of countries around the globe have learned to imitate our self-seeking, our obsessions with wealth and celebrity, and our growing incivility. Before selecting our public behaviors, we should perhaps think a bit harder about what it is that we want to export.
- Yale Divinity School's Reflections: Who Are We? American Values Revisited, Fall 2012