How are those of us who stand in opposition to the domestic agenda and for eign-policy views of President Obama and his administration to think about this country in 2010 as we approach the nation's birthday on Sunday?
Or, to put it another way: How should a self-described patriot think, act and talk about the United States if that self-described patriot believes the elected leadership of the United States has led the country into a ditch that threatens to expand into a bottomless chasm?
Does the fault lie with the president and his party, or does it reside in the electorate that installed them? If it resides in the electorate, what does that say about the condition of the United States?
People interested in public policy and politics with a philosophical bent are profoundly attracted to these sorts of questions. They seem to cut through the fog of specifics to the clarity provided by an inquiry into the basics, into first things.
(After all, it gets tedious after a while to say, "This detail is what's wrong with the Obama approach to health care," or "That consequenceindicts the entirety of the Bush approach in the War on Terror." Arguments conducted on that level invite endless counterarguments and rebuttals. Worse, they elevate the opposition as worthy of engagement -- when a ferocious and passionate partisan seeks to discredit the opposition. To delegitimize the opposition.)
In the case of Barack Obama, the root questions are: Who is he and why is he doing this?
Opponents answer the question in many ways, from the clear-cut (he's a Chicago Democrat) to the more suggestive (he's a 1970s-era campus leftist) to the silly (he wasn't born in America) to the sinister (he's a secret Muslim or Communist).
Conveniently, this kind of focus on Obama personally exempts the rest of the country from any blame, except for being so foolish as to fall for Obama's patter: The fault lies not in ourselves but in our leaders.
But for those who are unsatisfied with this, the blame attaches not to Obama himself -- after all, he really did tell us what he intended to do, by telling Joe the Plumber he wanted to redistribute wealth.
Rather, the blame attaches to the electorate for its foolishness in believing the hype, or for falling for the siren song of the European social democracy that Obama is eager to impose. So the root question here is: Have the American people changed?
Fascinating though all this might be, the story of the last couple of years is a relatively simple one -- and speaks to the genius of the American system that we have every reason to celebrate this weekend.
The American political system presents two choices to the American people -- Republicans or Democrats. After preferring Republicans for a few election cycles in the early years of the first decade of this century and not liking the result, the electorate decided to go for Democrats for a few election cycles. It now appears they don't like this result either -- and will now go back to the Republicans and give them another chance.
The body politic is not panicking, even though the news is dire -- because it knows, somehow, that this too shall pass. America has faced worse times and weathered them. Even within our memory, it has had other leaders who also misunderstood their mandates and offered solutions to the nation's problems that only exacerbated them.
The body politic learns from its mistakes and uses its power to correct them. Taken as a whole, this bunch of rubes and dupes and boobs shows a remarkably commonsensical approach to these things by saying, in essence:
Nothing is irreversible. Change is possible.
The political message of July 4, 2010 that is looking increasingly like a harbinger of doom for the man who popularized it two years ago is simply this:
Yes, we can.
John Podhoretz is the editor of Commentary Magazine.