The Role of Morality in the American Politics

The American political and social sphere has been greatly influenced by concerns about morality. This is evident from certain policies and political events that have taken over along the American history. A good example is the progression of moral based arguments that led to the Prohibition Law that banned the consumption and distribution of liquor between 1920and 1933. The prohibition was based on morality-based argument that alcohol consumption was the main cause of the social and personal problems people experienced in the country including crime, family disputes and laziness. Similarly, the famous president Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998 was largely influenced by morality politics, as his adulterous affair with an intern in the white house was seen as a huge crime against the set morality standard of the country (Morone). This is according to James Morone is a Political Science professor at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island State. In his lecture discussing the contents of his 2003 book ‘Hellfire Nation’ at the Brown University, Professor Morone discusses the issues that have shaped the American political nature and policies over the existence of the country. This paper explores the themes that the recording of his lecture discusses and how they have shaped the American public policies.

Starting the lecture, Morone first notes of some of the issues that are extremely contrasting between the USA and the rest of the world. For one, the country incarcerates the highest number of its citizens each year, with statistics at 2003 revealing that 648 out of every 100,000 people are either incarcerated or serving other criminal justice bindings such as parole or probation. Morone further notes the statistics are worst for the African American faction in which 6,838 of 100,000 or at least one in every ten serve under the judiciary system. As Morone argues out, this is because pf the strong attitude of us versus them attitudes that have shaped the nature of the political and social systems in the country. He backs it up by explaining American crime rate is just average as compared to the rest of the world, explaining that one is almost likely to be robbed in the USA as in countries such as France or the United Kingdom. The us versus them attitude has influenced policies such as the Jim Crow laws of racial segregation in which the whites saw they were different from the black and the Latinas in the country. The video footage further notes the ‘us and them’ theme had shaped the American foreign policy in the First World War in which American soldiers were seen as ‘the morality soldiers’ thus would not engage in sinful ways unlike the soldiers from other warring nation (Morone). This also facilitated the prohibition which for some of the parties for the prohibition including religious movements, it was for churches versus liquor saloons. Morone further notes the America policy on terror in which the attitude s of ‘us versus them’ is seen through racial prejudice. He notes that his Indian friend suggests ‘In America, brown people cannot run in the Airport’ suggesting the connotation of Asians with terror (Morone). This is also a form of alienation emphasized by the policy of reporting neighbors who ‘act funny or different.’

The lecture further discusses one powerful element in the American public and private policy: Liberalism. The lecture points out that the American nation was founded on the pillars pf liberalism  in which the forefathers pointed out they had come to America to escape oppressive governments in Europe by allowing better lives including issues such as voting, hard work and privacy. In America, the world’s most liberal country, as Americans tend to feel, this is strongly developed in the suspicion of the government’s agenda. This includes more emphasis on the separation of the public and private lives which has strongly shaped the constitution. Morone quickly gives an example of the formation of the National Medical Insurance cover in 1963. This was such a wonderful government initiative yet it was met with strong opposition especially by the American Medical Association which even had its members to ask family and friends to write letters protesting the medical policy. This was based on the basis that it was the first step the government was taking its first steps to strip away freedom from its citizens. The separation of private and public life has also made great strides to separate state from the church which emphasize  on whatever people do in private is their own business. It has also led to growth of three key factions of political divide, the right wing, the left wing and the great majority, the silent majority who have little say in the matters unless established on voting grounds.

Lastly, Morone points out that American policies have been formed in the context of two interweaving and marginally conflicting viewpoints. The first viewpoint includes the Victorian theory which emphasize more on individualism, privacy and high intolerance of deviant behavior as seen by the strength of the criminal justice system which seeks to contain such behavior. This theme is emphasized on the blame game between unfair systems and individuals and intolerance towards social sins such as laziness, sexuality and sexual indulgence, violence, alcohol and drug abuse. The second theme is the social gospel which preaches values such as addressing social and systemic unfairness as seen by the civil movements, addressing healthcare and migrant concerns. These two issues have intermitted shaped the social segregation laws, Bill Clinton’s impeachment and the costly war on drugs and violence that have greatly affected the minority groups.


            In conclusion, the American politics have been shaped by issues such as the advocacy for morality, liberty and attitudes such as ‘us versus them’ which can be seen in numerous political decisions such as the Jim Crow Laws and the immigration policies. Learning them can help shape a better approach to the American political sphere.

Works Cited

Morone, James, director. The Politics of Sin in American History (2003). The Politics of Sin in American History (2003), Way Back, 8 June 2017,

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