Someone who's opinion on such matters (& all matters) I respect very much remarked a few months ago that the U.S. is primarily a conservative nation which is occasionally given to bouts of conscience and thus democratic-liberal leaning social policies. Here's one version of what might be going on that characterizes the situation in terms of a larger social transformation and suggests that the Founding Fathers allowed us a mechanism for moving forward. I'm writing in red because I might feel the need to editorialise:
Andrew Sullivan: "What we're seeing, I think, is a huge fundamentalist Christian revival in this country, a religious movement that is now explicitly political as well. It is unsurprising, of course, given the uncertainty of today's world, the devastating attacks on our country, and the emergence of so many more liberal cultures in urban America. [except that I think there's a way to articulate a strong defensive foreign policy without couching it in overtly religious language] And it is completely legitimate in this country for such views to be represented in public policy, however much I disagree with them. But the intensity of the passion, and the inherently totalist nature of religiously motivated politics means deep social conflict if we are not careful. Our safety valve must be federalism. [This, I like. If things are red and blue, then let's allow it to be so] We have to live and let live. As blue states become more secular, and red states become less so, the only alternative to a national religious war is to allow different states to pursue different options. That goes for things like decriminalization of marijuana, abortion rights, stem cell research and marriage rights. Forcing California and Mississippi into one model is a recipe for disaster. Federalism is now more important than ever. I just hope that Republican federalists understand this. I fear they don't." So we're in the middle of the Third Great Awakening? and Pat Robertson is the new Cotton Mather?
Here's more that I like from Andrew Sullivan, regarding responsibility and consequences. I think this is what I was trying to get to with my post about the way this will be viewed in the world.
"Now, Bush will face the consequences of his own policies and we will be able to judge him on that. He has no excuses any more. I hope he succeeds in Iraq, in reforming social security. But no one should give him an easy pass if he fails. "