When British politicians talk of greatness, by contrast, it feels more like one of those embarrassing family rituals – Dad dressing up as Father Christmas. Everyone cringes but the grown-ups (in this case politicians) think that the children (in this case the electorate) will get upset if we admit to the reality.
Any US presidential candidate who dared suggest that the real challenge for their country involved the intelligent management of relative decline – and surely two such intelligent men as Mitt Romney and Barack Obama must know this in their own minds – would be sure of defeat.
Things are different in Britain. The country has never gone in for institutionalised patriotism.