By Fareed Zakaria
In the '70s and '80s, to many Americans the Democratic Party seemed more concerned with America's shortcomings than its strengths. Many of its leaders criticized the country relentlessly for its behavior at home and abroad, for its inequities and injustices. The Democrats, Jeane Kirkpatrick said at the Republican Convention in 1984, "always blame America first."
Today it is the Republican Party that often seems angry with America. Read the best-selling books by conservatives these days, watch Fox News or attend a Tea Party rally. They are filled with rage, often combined with a powerful nostalgia for an America that has gone away.
Reagan was said to be three parts optimism and one part nostalgia. Recently, that formula has been inverted. In 1996, Bob Dole gave an astonishing convention speech that attacked those who believed the U.S. had improved over the past decades. "I say you're wrong. And I know because I was there. And I have seen it. And I remember," said Dole. So much for progress on civil rights, women's rights or even toward a more open and meritocratic economy and society.