Welcome to Keeping (up with) the Republic — a blog that helps us think critically about events in American politics. It is written by me — Christine Barbour — a professor of American politics and coauthor of the CQ Press text, Keeping the Republic: Power in Citizenship in American Politics.
The book emphasizes critical thinking about American politics as a way to deal with all the political information that constantly bombards us and the multiple narratives that are created from it to persuade us that the world is one way or another. Critical thinking — and forming our own narratives — is the ticket to reclaiming our power as citizens and our ability to do what Benjamin Franklin hoped we would do — keep the republic.
What does “keeping the republic” mean? It means being vigilant about abuses of power, holding our leaders to account, protecting the norms that make checks and balances work, and valuing country over party or tribe. It’s not “my country right or wrong” but it is “if my country is wrong, it’s on me to help make it right.”
I’d like to say that there are no biases in this blog but I don’t believe in the absence of bias. We all have them. In the interests of full disclosure, here are mine as I know them — you may discover more as we go along:
- I am explicitly biased toward moderation of views and the value of the founders’ vision of compromise and cautious governance.
- I am socially inclusive — an old school feminist, I think we all have some sexism, racism, homophobia and xenophobia in us — even against the very groups we are members of — just from immersion in the culture we live in. I think it is our obligation to root it out through critical self examination.
- As a political scientist, I am strongly biased in favor of the value of science and education — liberal arts education in particular — to teach us how to think critically, how to demand empirical evidence to back up claims that people make, how to debate ethical questions fairly and openly, and how to arrive at the best answers we can find, knowing that even good answers should always be revisited and re-examined.
- I believe in truth telling — whether to power or to our parents or to our friends. Truth makes communication and peaceful collective lives possible.The power of telling the truth and defending the truth makes me reject the whole culture of political correctness — we shouldn’t shield ourselves from views we find repugnant — we should sharpen our arguments against them.
- I have voted for more Democrats than Republicans in my life, but I have voted for both. I am biased against hyperpartisanship of any flavor that puts party over nation.
You should know all these things about me, because the first step in critical thinking is knowing the source of your information — not so you can discount it, but so that you know how to understand and interpret it.
It goes with out saying, but I’ll say it anyway — the views on this blog are mine alone. I’d love to hear yours so feel free to contact me or to comment on the blog. Comments are moderated just to avoid spam and bots. If you are a real person I welcome your participation.