You would think that while we might disagree about what kind of change we want, Americans are in total agreement that the current situation is intolerable in all areas and that change — big, immediate change — is essential. Americans do agree about this — in the abstract. But as soon as it seems that change might actually happen — as soon as we leave the abstract for the particular — we panic. We suddenly develop nostalgia for the comforts of the status quo. Sure, we want change — as long as everything can stay just as it is…

Why does this happen? Some people (including me) say the voters are immature. Politicians (and those talk radio fellows again) are always telling them that they are wise and those folks in Washington are fools. Pollsters seek and validate their opinions on subjects they haven’t bothered to learn anything about. Politicians drown them in benefits with no thought of how the bills will be paid. No wonder that citizens turn out like spoiled children. But “immature” is a label, not an explanation. It’s just a guess, but my own suspicion is that the raucous town hall meetings that blindsided pols and press alike reflect the voters’ true feelings — misinformed, perhaps, but sincere — and their previous passionate demands for what they now passionately oppose — in a word, “change” — were empty ritual. Discontent verging on anger is almost the price of admission to our political culture these days. You’re nobody if you’re not furious at Congress and/or the media and/or your health care and/or the president. To believe in your country’s institutions is virtually unpatriotic.