But for the hell of it, let's say we take the rube's "morale [sic] compass" argument at face value. This is a common refrain amongst the oldsters who refuse to do the right thing and jettison themselves into the Arctic Ocean on an ice floe, and instead harangue the rest of us at how the country they thought they knew has "lost its way."
I say it's finally starting to find its way, in several important respects. There is massive work to be done still, to address the ravages of wealth inequality, of the ongoing dilapidation of the national infrastructure, of a nation run by rackets, and so on. But there are very important moral strides this nation has accomplished in my lifetime.
Blacks are still getting harassed and killed by law enforcement. But they have always been getting harassed and killed by law enforcement. The fact that you finally hear about it when it happens is, sadly and amazingly, a sign of moral progress, a clue that more and more people understand that it's going on and that it's wrong.
Same goes for bigotry toward gay people. They've always been picked on. But again, now you hear about it, now a substantial contingent of observers register their displeasure. Sometimes those folks get a bit carried away, inadvertently allowing small businesses speaking hypothetically to nail themselves to a Kickstarter cross, and cash in on cultural polarization. But the tide is turning all the same, too slowly for some, too quickly for others.
Over the years many folks, myself included, held out hope that the mossbacks would die off, and the kids, not having inherited their parents' prejudices, would be all right. I don't know if that's really the case; the older I get, the more I notice that stupid parents tend to produce stupid kids, who then turn into another generation of stupid adults.
The climate in general does seem to be getting uglier, more vitriolic. I didn't care for Bill Clinton for a lot of reasons, but that was a time where the opposition suddenly seemed to decide that there were no longer any boundaries, that any and all bullshit was fair game. Compared to how the current crowd treats and talks about Obama, that was nothing. The venomous, spiteful nature not only of Obama's political opposition, but the commentary at large, is amazing.
At least W gave his opponents plenty of things to hate about him, and they still did not react with quite this much vituperation. I honestly believe that if Obama said that water is wet or that the sun rises in the east, there would be some jabbering internuts claque to twitter hostile lunacies over it.
So perhaps, after all, there is something to this "moral compass" thing, just not what its author had intended. It never is, precisely because of the inherently biased nature of such observations.