Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter June 28, 2019

Legislating Morality in the US Congress…or Not: Religion, Polarization, and the Next Wave of Culture

Elizabeth A. Oldmixon
From the journal The Forum

Abstract

Americans routinely petition their legislators for moral redress, drawing the US Congress into cultural debates about who we are as a people and what behaviors and social relationships are compatible with that shared identity. By engaging moral issues, Congress affirms one set of values over another, and legislative behavior is informed by cultural proxies such as religion, ideology, and partisanship. The institution falls short, however, when it comes to crafting lasting, comprehensive policy outputs in this domain. This is because moral issues do not lend themselves to compromise, whereas Congress is structured to seek compromise. The difficulties are exacerbated by party polarization driven by religious and ideological sorting. The upshot is that policymakers are often unable to build the broad coalitions necessary provide policy solutions. Assuming institutional arrangements and levels of polarization remain intact, and barring massive shifts in public opinion or developments in the courts, gridlock on moral issues will likely be the norm.

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Published Online: 2019-06-28

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