The annual Independence Day party that I host at my California home was particularly alive with conversation this year -- conversation probably not too different from what was heard in a lot of backyards around the country.
Folks are concerned that our nation is in bad shape and dangerously, maybe even hopelessly, adrift.
The choreography was in place to assure a downbeat Independence Day party for a house filled with conservatives: a listless economy, coupled with the cold shower of the Supreme Court decision the previous week giving most of "Obamacare" a constitutional green light. To compound the injury, the dismally disappointing decision was written and handed down by a chief justice, an alleged conservative nominated by a Republican president.
But Chief Justice John Roberts' words captured, really, the rub of what is bothering many conservatives:
"Members of this court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our nation's leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices."
Maybe how Roberts interpreted the Constitution disappointed. But his point is indisputable: If you're looking for political leadership, "It's not our job."
Conservatives are looking for leadership at this difficult and challenging time.
Maybe because this July 4 crowd at my home consisted of many longtime Southern Californians, there was talk about Ronald Reagan.
Yes, Jimmy Carter was bad. But Reagan did not just run against a bad economy and a confused, uninspiring president. He understood and believed in America -- and he ran on this vision. This is leadership.
It happens that last month marked the 25th anniversary of Reagan's famous "tear down this wall" speech in Berlin. Its author, Peter Robinson, recalled the event in a Wall Street Journal column.
The story has been told many times. But it cannot be recalled too many times that the political professionals -- the president's advisers and various members of the president's staff -- opposed including the "tear down" line.
Despite numerous attempts to remove the line from the speech, it stayed in -- because of Reagan.
This is leadership.
The problems we have today did not start four years ago. They are the accumulation of many years of a slow but consistent departure from our core principles of being a free nation, under God.
Of our now almost $15.6 trillion in debt -- 100 percent of our gross domestic product -- nearly $5 trillion was added over the last four years. But $10 trillion -- almost two-thirds -- was added over the last 12 years.
Forty percent of our $4 trillion federal budget consists of inefficient entitlement programs tilting into bankruptcy. These are old and outdated programs: Social Security going back to the 1930s, Medicare and Medicaid to the 1960s.
Our public school systems hold 60 million children captive by teachers unions dedicated to left-wing ideas and moral relativism.
The traditional American family is becoming a relic of history. Out-of-wedlock births and the use of abortion as birth control have become fixtures of our society.
When Reagan ran for president in 1980, health-care expenditures consumed 9 percent of our GDP. Today, they consume 18 percent. We have a health-care problem with or without John Roberts' unpopular decision.
Real recovery is impossible now without inspired leadership dedicated to recapturing the principles of limited government, individual freedom and the traditional values that made America great.
The left has a leader. He is in the White House and he is leading us into oblivion.
Where is conservative leadership -- leadership that will remind us that American community is defined by personal responsibility, not by government mandates?
Don't tell people where to live, which is what government low-income housing does. (comments)
The basis of humanity, civilization, and decency is respect for and awe of the miracle of life. This must take precedence over all. (comments)
The American recovery is happening despite government, not because of it. (comments)
How far do we let liberals go in censuring speech and ideas in America? (comments)
Why focus on trying to make government more efficient rather than on what government should or should not do? (comments)
Moral relativism does not neutralize the moral marketplace. It replaces one set of values with another. (comments)
Five reforms the new Republican congress can pass to guarantee no more Fergusons. (comments)
There is no poll showing that that the immigration issue sits at the top of concerns of the American people. (comments)
For lack of something of substance to tell the American people, Democrats ran a campaign of hate, blame, and division. (comments)
Black Americans have suffered greatly living under the thumb of government and believing it is a good thing. (comments)
The funds that pay for the fear and disinformation campaign come from groups who really are hurting black Americans. (comments)
As Elbert Guillory points out in his ad, despite all the big government, the economic state of affairs of low-income blacks has changed little over the years. (comments)
Beyond the overriding economic control that the federal government now has over citizens, federal courts now dictate our social norms. (comments)
The black unemployment rate in North Carolina is more than double that of whites. (comments)
American families have been damaged and out-of-wedlock births have increased six-fold from 1960 to 42 percent today. Government has displaced family. (comments)
Republicans should resist temptation to pander and point Hispanics in the direction of freedom and opportunity, what got them here in the first place. (comments)
Diversity should be about about recognizing "diversity of people's gifts, talents, and skills." (comments)
Low-income black parents need options, choices, for educating their children outside the public school monopoly. (comments)
Since Johnson, the government has spent $15 trillion dollars fighting poverty without reducing poverty. (comments)
What do successful, wealthy black entrepreneurs know that they are not sharing with their own? (comments)