Great nations and proud empires have always collapsed from within before they were conquered from without. President Obama's re-election mirrors the self-indulgent, greedy and envious nation we are rapidly becoming.
Pollsters Michael Barone and Dick Morris got it horribly wrong. Both predicted a 300 electoral-vote win for Romney. It was President Obama who reached that mark. The central message coming out of the election seems to be that we are no longer the America of our Founders, or even the America that existed during World War II, which produced our "greatest generation."
Instead, the election validates the enormous cultural shift that has been taking place since the 1960s, when a countercultural bomb was dropped on society, producing moral fallout that continues to this day.
I am a child of the "greatest generation." My parents believed I should learn to take care of myself. They would have been too embarrassed to ask for help if they needed it. If they did, they would turn to family first, or to a friend or neighbor. There were fewer social programs then, so people mostly did without, living only on what they truly needed. It said something about your character if you refused to strive toward self-sufficiency.
In 2012, nothing appears to embarrass us. Snooki. Honey Boo Boo. Reality TV wives. Look at what is paraded before us as normal. Oppose the new normal and it is you who are the anomaly.
Young people are taught in public schools, at major universities, on television and in movies, that every life choice is acceptable and every tenet open to interpretation. In politics, some proclaim it is right to oppose the successful and envy the rich to the point where they must be denigrated and penalized for their success with higher taxes. No one has to be personally responsible. No education; no motivation; no life plan? No problem. The government will take care of you.
One thing Romney might have done better is to have featured more people who had overcome government dependence by embracing the values he was promoting. Example trumps philosophy, and success should trump victimhood. Inspiration follows perspiration. But in our "entitlement" age even that might have been impossible to overcome.
Other signs of cultural decay are accepted with little notice. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40 percent of babies born in America are born to unmarried women. Shrug. Abortion clinics continue to operate. Yawn.
There is no longer any cultural corrective because we have abandoned the concept of objective truth. Nothing is right or wrong, because that suggests a standard by which right and wrong might be defined. Personal choice is the new "standard," which is no standard at all. One might as well develop individual weights and measures.
Politicians bid for votes, making promises they can't keep to voters who will believe anything, as long as it appeals to greed, envy and their sense of entitlement. This undermines our culture. This fuels our massive debt, weakening our economic power and America's standing in the world.
Standards used to be defined and mostly accepted, if not universally practiced. Many grew out of religious principles. According to a recent Pew poll, a growing number of people, especially young people, no longer believe in God or religion. In this, and in our increasing flirtation with socialism, America is becoming more like Europe. Government seems to be replacing God as the only acceptable "deity."
So what is the answer? Should conservatives throw in the towel and say America, as passed down to us by previous generations, is no more? That was President Obama's announced goal four years ago when he promised to "fundamentally transform America." He's doing it, and a sufficient number of us appears happy to let him. When they realize what they have done, however, it may well be too late to reverse course.
Examiner Columnist Cal Thomas is nationally syndicated by Tribune Media.