“There is a lot of ruin in a nation.” So said Adam Smith over two centuries ago. He reminds us that strong, stable countries like America can survive the pounding we have suffered over the past few years. Our nation may be continually tested, but it has deep reserves of strength.

In trying times, like the late 1960s and early 2020s, it is important to remember just how robust and stable our country is. We are finally emerging from the Covid years — so badly mishandled by public health "experts" — with school shutdowns (much beloved...

“There is a lot of ruin in a nation.” So said Adam Smith over two centuries ago. He reminds us that strong, stable countries like America can survive the pounding we have suffered over the past few years. Our nation may be continually tested, but it has deep reserves of strength.

In trying times, like the late 1960s and early 2020s, it is important to remember just how robust and stable our country is. We are finally emerging from the Covid years — so badly mishandled by public health “experts” — with school shutdowns (much beloved by teachers’ unions) both damaging to students and unnecessary (as Catholic schools proved). Now, we are struggling with inflation, rising interest rates, and slow growth. We will survive those, too.

Our reserves of strength are worth remembering as both political parties scream about the opposition’s unvarnished evil and, in the Democrats’ case, propose to overcome it by making fundamental changes to the Supreme Court and Senate. Fortunately, voters and their representatives have resisted those calls — by a large margin in the case of packing the Supreme Court, by a much thinner one in retaining the Senate filibuster, essential for protecting the minority party and the Senate’s role as a site for debate and compromise.

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Donald Trump and his most strident followers continue to fulminate about stolen elections long after they have exhausted all their legal challenges and the voters’ patience. Midterm voters soundly rejected their backward-looking campaign. This message was clear enough in that Trump, who would not endorse any candidates unless they publicly repeated his claim that the 2020 election was stolen, completely skipped the topic during his Mar-a-Lago presidential announcement last week.

Why the optimism amid the gloom? The most important reason is that our country and its constitutional arrangements have survived the shocks and ideological battering of the past few years and that the trouble now seems to be receding. Second, voters are telling both parties they don’t support the most extreme candidates, those whose platforms stress grievance, revenge, and dramatic change. On the Republican side, the most caustic deniers of the 2020 election were defeated for both state and national offices.

Their tribune, Donald Trump, finally appears vulnerable to more forward-looking candidates. It’s not just Republican bigwigs who see the problem Trump poses. Having cost the party winnable congressional seats in 2022 and the Senate majority in both 2020 and 2022, lots of everyday Republican voters are troubled, as are independents.

Republicans also see a winning issue in education, where they are promoting parental rights, as opposed to those of teachers’ unions and education bureaucrats, and a return to core academic subjects, as opposed to indoctrination in racial ideology and the denigration of our nation’s historic achievements.

On the Democratic side, the far-left Squad has failed to expand its small congressional bridgehead. Moreover, the party’s mainstream has finally repudiated the left’s call for abolishing or defunding the police. During the 2020 riots, party leaders remained silent and said nothing about the chaos at their national convention. They finally spoke up after voters made clear they wanted basic public safety, not virtue signaling, and believed it could be provided without racial prejudice.

The main questions for Democrats now are whether they will return to a center-left agenda or stick with Joe Biden’s quest for massive spending and regulation without a voter mandate or congressional majority. Will Biden continue the same policies after losing the House? Will he try to push them through via executive orders and the bureaucracy? Will he leave the southern border open to record numbers of illegal immigrants and deadly drugs? He has yet to decide.

The Supreme Court is another source of optimism, despite the national controversy over the abortion decision. The Court’s conservative majority seems determined to rein in excessive bureaucratic rulemaking untethered to duly passed laws. The key questions are whether the president can effectively write laws on his own and whether Congress has the authority to delegate so much of its lawmaking responsibility to unelected bureaucrats.  A clear test of presidential powers will arise over Biden’s half-trillion dollar giveaway on student loans, a massive expenditure that normally requires laws passed by Congress. The lower courts have already rejected the president’s overreach, and the Supreme Court is likely to as well.

Yet another source of optimism is that the Court will finally overturn affirmative action in college admissions and reassert a basic American value: the promise of equal treatment for everyone, regardless of race, creed, or color. Affirmative action programs began in the aftermath of the civil rights laws of the mid-1960s and were approved by the Supreme Court in the early 1980s. They represented an understandable, but contentious, departure from legal equality and were meant as partial compensation for the country’s grim history of enslaving and segregating African Americans.

The affirmative action experiment had four premises. First, it was considered unfair to ask African Americans to compete, without assistance, after they had suffered centuries of unequal treatment. Second, the assistance should be relatively moderate, especially in areas such as college admissions. In effect, the help given to one group had to be balanced against the rights of others. Third, the assistance should gradually diminish and end completely after 20 or 30 years. It was never meant to be permanent. Finally, it should actually help its intended recipients succeed in higher education, not put them in positions where they were likely to struggle and fail.

The crucial point is that America’s departure from its basic value of equal treatment was meant to be modest and temporary. Because affirmative action has become a permanent program that gives substantial advantages to black applicants, SCOTUS is likely to end it.

A final source of optimism lies abroad, in Ukraine. The United States and its NATO partners have offered that country substantial support for its struggle against Russia’s unprovoked aggression. Russia’s effort to conquer its sovereign neighbor has been a disgusting display of deliberate, inhumane attacks on innocent civilians. The West’s response has been slow and careful — at significant cost of Ukrainian lives — but that caution is meant to avoid Russian escalation that could spread to other countries and lead to direct battlefield confrontation between Russian and NATO troops. American support for Ukraine has not been unanimous. Populist, nationalist Republicans have opposed military aid, as have far-left Democrats (for different reasons). But wiser heads in both parties have prevailed.

That is actually the larger theme here: wiser heads have prevailed. There is no guarantee they will continue to do so. The pressures would surely grow if there were a sharp economic downturn. But America’s future is far brighter than its critics on the left and right say. That is the message voters are sending both parties. They know there is much ruin in a nation, but they are not eager to find out just how much.