Consider these snapshots from Independence Day 2012, all from states that are going to be crucial to outcomes this fall:
At a parade in Celebration, Fla., the Disney-built community southwest of Orlando, small-business owner Greg Iwanski said that he respects the Supreme Court’s recent opinion that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional — but that it only reinforces his desire to elect Republican Mitt Romney to get rid of the unpopular health-care law.
“This whole entitlement era has got to stop, or we’ll become Greece,” said Iwanski, who was wearing a star-spangled red-white-and-blue shirt. “It’s that serious.”
At the Union House bar in Parma, Ohio — famous for its pirogi — owner Doug Henderson insisted that Greece offers a reason to reelect President Obama.
“If General Motors and Chrysler Corporation had gone under the way [Romney] wanted them to, I think it would be in the tank,” he said of the U.S. economy. “I think we’d be Greece, Spain and Ireland right now.”
On the flag-lined central thoroughfare of downtown Leesburg, Va., law student Danielle Fein got a chance on Tuesday to express her fears to her former governor, who wants to be her future senator.
“We keep hearing it,” she told George Allen, the Republican Senate nominee. “ ‘Be prepared for an 18-month job search.’ ”
And on the outskirts of Las Vegas, Dennis Villanueva, who voted for Obama in 2008, was contemplating not the November election but his upcoming move out of state. Having seen his income in a casino bar drop by two-thirds, to $20,000 a year, he has had to walk away from two houses.
“I just gave up,” he said.
Anger, relief, anxiety, despair — this is what America sounded like on the 236th anniversary of the declaration of the shared purpose that inspired 13 colonies to break away from a domineering king across the ocean.
The intervening years, as Obama pointed out Wednesday at a naturalization ceremony for active-duty military, produced a Constitution, a Bill of Rights, a civil war, and ultimately the extension of voting rights to women and African Americans.
“Even now, we’re still perfecting our union, still extending the promise of America,” the president said.
But Independence Day found the nation more divided politically than at any time in memory.
Between red states and blue states, the debate rages: Has the government grown so big that it smothers us, or is it too small a raft to keep the most vulnerable from drowning?
Should we be more worried about the care and security promised our parents, or the debt we are leaving our children?
And in a nation built by wave after wave of mostly European immigrants, who should get to be an American? That issue has returned to the fore at a moment when the country has rounded a demographic corner: Whites no longer account for a majority of births.