Democracy   /   Spring 2000   /    Articles

Maintaining the Trajectory of Freedom

Richard V. Horner

Postcard of Independence Hall, Philadelphia; Wikimedia Commons.

Why are our intentions toward the trajectory of freedom so constantly challenged and inevitably shifting?

The hope of American democracy does not lie in the reassertion of self-evident truths, nor in the reconstruction of moral foundations, nor in a renewed faith in human reason. It does not lie in a revitalized republicanism rooted in civic virtue nor in a communitarian consensus rooted in a shared view of human nature. The hope of American democracy lies just where the pre-eminent pragmatist of our day says it does: in continuing along the trajectory defined by the Bill of Rights, the Reconstruction Amendments, the building of the land-grant colleges, female suffrage, the New Deal, Brown vs. Board of Education, the building of the community colleges, Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights legislation, the feminist movement, and the gay rights movement.11xRichard Rorty, “Trotsky and the Wild Orchids,” Common Knowledge 1 (Winter, 1992): 150.

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