Compass is an online journal that provides a space for the work of talented undergraduates who have original and well-articulated insights on important ideas and issues relating to American democracy understood in the broad contexts of political philosophy, history, literature, economics, and culture. Compass is a joint project of the Tocqueville Forum at Northern Illinois University and the Center for Political Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University.


Defining Criminality: Confronting Racist and Classist Narratives of the Criminal
June 12, 2020 Sophia R. Meacham

Defining someone as a criminal carries serious consequences for the individual in terms of a denial of resources, increased surveillance, incarceration, and dehumanization, and also for society as a whole.

Photo of permiter fence of Camp Delta JTF Guantanamo
The American Torture Problem
January 15, 2020 Chase Sievers

This essay offers a brief account and (partial) critique of the Central Intelligence Agency’s enhanced interrogation program which was utilized during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

US Capitol building
“High Crimes and Misdemeanors”: A Constitutional Critique of the Commander-in-Chief
December 20, 2019 Emma Pugh

The Impeachment Clause of the U.S. Constitution has been subject to competing interpretations. Whether impeachment is understood as a legal or a political process will have a great impact on future impeachment proceedings in the United States.

“St. Augustine and Said Nursi on Introspection as a Vehicle for Change”
November 26, 2019 Aysenur Guc

Many parts of the world today appear to be submerged in a perpetual cycle of violence. It is often thought that in order to resolve conflicts and ameliorate the conditions of those being injured, action must be taken. A type of action that is external—engaging in war for international matters, using police force upon communal ...

Author Roundtable: David C. Hendrickson’s “Republic in Peril: American Empire and the Liberal Tradition”
November 8, 2019 Jill Harmston, Parker Meadows, Hannah Jenkins, and David C. Hendrickson

In spring 2019, a group of undergraduates in the NIU Tocqueville Forum had the honor of hosting David C. Hendrickson, and talking with him about his latest book Republic in Peril, in which he criticizes American foreign policy since the Cold War. Here, three of these Forum participants react to his arguments, and Hendrickson responds

Consent of the Governed: Thomas Jefferson’s Relationship with Sally Hemings
August 15, 2019 Carley Johansson

Many are familiar with Thomas Jefferson’s concubinage of his slave, Sally Hemings. What few realize, however, is the consequence this holds for Jefferson’s reputation and the credibility of his vision of the perfect Union.

Has Academic Freedom Failed? Can Liberalism Defend It?
June 4, 2019 Daniel Becker

Patrick Deneen has argued that both the philosophy of liberalism and the principle of academic freedom are fundamentally flawed. In this piece I argue that the liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill provides a convincing counterargument to Deneen’s criticisms.

Restoring the Republic: A Conservative Manifesto for America’s Future
May 20, 2019 Cameron Khansarinia

In response to liberal attempts to diverge from many American values and ways, some contemporary conservatives have responded by looking backward to what we used to be. Instead, the conservative project should be to transform us into the nation that we were always supposed to be, a project for which Tocqueville can provide guidance.

Is Gerrymandering Good for Democracy?
April 24, 2019 Jacob Rubel

Does gerrymandering deserve the awful reputation it has received? Through a revaluation in light of Founding principles, gerrymandering’s hidden virtues are uncovered.

The Bracero Program: The Bi-National Migrant Labor Agreement 1942-1964
March 19, 2019 Sandra Puebla

This article explores the complex and fragile agreement between Mexico and the United States on migrant farm workers in the middle of the twentieth century.