THE MOOD: Summer's Ease and Anxiety

THE land was in its summer rhythms. The unrelenting litany of problems remained—the war, inflation, unemployment, pollution. Ahead loomed a somewhat strange presidential election that might wedge the old divisions wider than ever. Yet for the moment, much of America was suspended in an August pause. Compared with the national mood a year ago—a weary funk of economic uncertainty—there was now even a sense of a new summer sweetness, an ease, or apathy, and in some parts of the country a distinct savor of contentment.

Last summer, according to one estimate, Americans...

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