Barry Goldwater, who won 27 million American votes for president in 1964, once asked a WASP-only Arizona country club if he could play nine holes there since he was only half-Jewish.
Now the Grand Canyon State is becoming a national symbol for prejudice as lawmakers not only mandate Gestapolike searches for illegal immigrants but crack down on teachers who fail to speak English with an impeccable accent.
In Arizona's search for security, Peggy Noonan finds a response to a federal government in which "so many within it are stupid and unimaginative and don't trust the American people," resulting in "a deep and growing alienation" between those people and their national leaders.
Her diagnosis, however descriptively accurate, conflates the Bush and Obama eras by blaming alienation on "two wars that were supposed to be cakewalks, Katrina, the crash, and the phenomenon of a federal government that seemed less and less competent attempting to do more and more by passing bigger and bigger laws.
"Add to this states on the verge of bankruptcy, the looming debt crisis of the federal government, the likelihood of ever-rising taxes. Shake it all together, and you have the makings of the big alienation. Alienation is often followed by full-blown antagonism, and antagonism by breakage."
This equates Bush political breakage and Obama efforts to repair it, finding comparable eight years of destroying trust domestically and around the world to little more than a year of frantic attempts to undo the damage, complicated by "a loyal opposition" dedicated to kneejerk obstruction and fueling of racial and ethnic hatreds.
All this suggests a different kind of alienation in a country that is becoming demographically less and less WASP and falling into Tea Party rage to express its unhappiness over loss of that privileged status.
Cracking down on immigrants has a long, sad history in American life but there is particular poignancy in watching bigotry during a week in which the President welcomes to the White House championship athletes named Rivera, Rodriguez, Posada et al, who risk being arrested when they travel to Phoenix to engage in the national pastime with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
If Ms. Noonan likes large words to describe our national condition, she may want to go down to the other end of the alphabet from "alienation" and try "xenophobia."