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By Robert W. Hoffert

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Example text

That story is always about the whole and the particular members of the whole who have best embodied the community's nature and destiny. Israel is the chosen people of God, it is the children of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, and it is the Jewish people led by Moses. A community is united by its story and the persons in that story who most embody its unique struggles and accomplishments. Common purposes and efforts can only be understood and maintained through knowledge of the community's distinctiveness.

The assertion of an American political consensus, typically said to derive from John Locke, is based on significant, recurring patterns in American political thinking and experience but camouflages the inherently dynamic elements, mysteries, and diversities that are in tension with those patterns. In fact, America's political consensus is itself the source of a great national paradox. That consensus reflects persistent and pervasive agreements among Americans about their fundamental political values and purposes, but it simultaneously structures the most significant historical and contemporary conflicts within American politics.

The Constitution of 1787 delivered a deadly blow to decentralization, overwhelmed localism, and expanded the size, complexity, and power of the national government beyond any political, economic, or social event of the twentieth century. The popular rhetoric of Americans does not suggest an ongoing evolution of political principles or of national political identity. Rather, it characterizes the role of citizens and politicians alike to be the committed stewards of a preformed political identity.

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