The rest of the world, baffled and worried by what it sees as a flirtation with extremism in the world’s most powerful nation, can nevertheless understand why President Obama has such a fight on his hands. For it, too, feels let down by the refusal of the early Obama vision to materialise, and by his failure to revive the sluggish American economy.
The social divide in America is alarming. Part of the disappointment of Mr Obama’s first term has been his inability to overcome divisions. There is no force for harmony in America at present, no shared idea of what the country is about, no unifying national conversation.
The large and powerful Catholic Church, which could have been a peacemaker, has pushed the pursuit of its own agenda so far that it is now another source of disunity. Cardinal Dolan’s willingness to appear at the Republican Convention has partly been rectified by his acceptance of an invitation to the Democratic Party event next week. But his long-standing friendship with Paul Ryan ”“ a disciple of the notorious atheist Ayn Rand ”“ will cause consternation in Catholic circles around the globe.