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The Second American Enlightenment

05/27/2015 01:37 pm ET | Updated May 27, 2016

As the quote attributed to Winston Churchill brilliantly offers, "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing -- after they've tried everything else!"

It seems the nation has once again reached this Churchillian precipice on several issues that were believed to be bedrock conservative principles, and thereby tangentially American values.

It is hardly groundbreaking news to report the nation is headed toward legal affirmation of same-gender marriage. Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules this year, America is clearly on a trajectory of Ireland, which recently became the first country to legalize same-gender marriage by popular vote. According to a recent Gallup Poll, support for gay marriage in America has reached 60 percent.

The state legislature in Nebraska, hardly a bastion of liberal orthodoxy, recently voted to become the 19th state to formally abolish the death penalty. The Legislature overrode Governor Pete Ricketts' veto with majority Republican votes.

The alarming number of exonerations of the innocent who have languished on death row, the cost of capital punishment, along with its inability to make good on its promise to serve as a crime deterrent has caused many, regardless of political ideology, to rethink this ghoulish policy.

In spite of the cacophony espoused by some on the right on immigration, a CBS/New York Times poll indicates that 57 percent support staying and applying for citizenship and 11 percent support staying with no citizenship. Those numbers reflect a huge gulf between what the country wants and the inaction in Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll taken last year indicates 61 percent feel that "immediate action or some action" should be taken on global warming.

Though not enough to keep pace with productivity, a large number of Americans support raising the minimum wage.

And the Affordable Care Act that not so long ago, felt like an albatross around the necks of the Democrats is performing much better than predicted by its opposition.

What does this mean politically?

The election of President Barack Obama in 2008 was a referendum on the previous eight years of President George W. Bush. The Bush administration buoyed by 9/11 ushered in the "Dark Ages" in the fledgling 21st century, making fear the dominant ethos in American politics.

President Obama inherited two wars and the worst economy since the Great Depression. He was rewarded with a second term, the first Democrat to be reelected with more than 50 percent of the vote since Franklin Roosevelt.

Obama's election victories reflect the nation's changing demographics. It is difficult to envision a path to 270 electoral votes in 2016 to a party unable to win 3 of the 4 most populous states in country, especially now that Virginia and North Carolina, once dependable in the Republican column, will most likely be toss-up states.

But Republican success in the last two mid-term elections begs the question: Why hasn't the country moved to the left politically.

On paper, Democrats seem headed for the type of dominance not seen since the 1932 election, but it hasn't happened. Frankly, I think this is good news for the country.

If large numbers of the electorate supported the Democratic Party because of GOP failures on the economy and the costly wars, it would constitute a reactionary change, which in my view is unhealthy for the overall state of the republic.

As a result, the nation appears to be holding contradictory ideas -- moving to the left on a number of issues, while reluctant to reward the Democratic Party.

But shifts in policy do not reflect political direction, but rather a more enlightened populace. Is America in the throes of a "second enlightenment"?

Influenced by its European counterpart, the American Enlightenment marks a 104-year period, between the 18th and 19th centuries, applying scientific reasoning to politics, science, and religion. It promoted the arts, music, literature, spawning the Revolutionary War and the creation of the republic.

Perhaps the time has come for a recalibration? If history is an accurate barometer, our elected leadership will be too engrossed in their traditional playbook to realize that change is occurring.

I suspect multiple memos will be necessary.