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The founders would be appalled” is a common sentiment in American politics, expressed mostly by the right. Those on the left, by contrast, are overjoyed at the thought of appalling the founders, whom they accuse of a raft of unforgivable sins, which can be expiated (and even then, only partially) solely by destroying the founders’ republic.

For conservatives, by contrast, it is a lament: When, how, and why did things go so disastrously wrong? How did the glories of the Revolution, the genius of the Constitution, the struggles of the early republic, the preservation of the Union and abolition of slavery, the settling of the West, the building of the world’s greatest economy, the invention of the lightbulb, airplane, telephone, and internet, victories in two World Wars and the Cold War, the moonshot, and so much else degenerate into . . . this?

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