Since its inception, American politics has been distinct from its Old World forebears. The United States is not just the world’s first democracy but also its most radical experiment. American exceptionalism draws not from claims of ethnic or religious supremacy but a unique brand of political theory that puts special faith in individual liberty, communitarian ties, and constitutional government.
But we start this blog at a troubling time. Democracy rests on consensus and civic virtue, qualities that are hard to find in our modern discourse. Partisans on both sides threaten to tear this nation asunder once more, but while today’s stakes may be subtler than secession, they are just as urgent. Americans once appealed to common sources of universal legitimacy: God, country, and the Constitution. Today, both sides see the former not as ends to be served and revered but weapons to be wielded in the daily skirmishes of politics. Through their incessant deployment, these authorities have been debased. We talk past one another to our collective detriment.
Pnyx was founded to make sense of this transformation. While our publication will be timely, we wish not merely to transcribe our nation’s corroded discourse, but also to transform it. Plenty will see the present moment as a cause for pessimism. We see in today’s bleakness a generational opportunity — to reflect on our history, to revive our institutions, and to create a new American politics. This is an opportunity we must seize. At a time of global uncertainty and profound change, the world cannot afford for its boldest experiment to fail.
We are recent graduates of Yale College, Republicans and Democrats, followers of Aquinas and disciples of Rawls. We offer our diversity of views, undergirded by friendship and a common love of country, in hopes of provoking engaging debate and insightful commentary. Above all, we look forward to joining the conversation.