Is it pride or fear that is preventing President Obama from changing course in the face of a strong headwind from the American electorate?
The president is calling his fellow Democrats to the battlements in the name of global warming fees, a big expansion of the public education system, and the classification of terrorists as criminal defendants, not enemy combatants.
But he is also willing to delay implementation on all of those initiatives in the face of public and legislative opposition.
This is not a combative Winston Churchill telling Britons that he would be judged not by "the criticisms of our opponents, but the consequences of our acts."
Churchill, proving he didn't care a fig if his views were popular, staked everything on his belief that "a Hun alive is a war in prospect." Obama, by contrast, is playing for time until the electorate comes around to his way of thinking.
Churchill was impatient with Britain's refusal to see the Nazi menace. Obama is patiently waiting for his pupils to stop clinging to the American ethos and accept a new, statist model for the nation.
Consider health care.
The president is not commanding his allies in the House to pass the shoddy Senate health bill. He instead wants congressional Democrats to produce yet another reiteration of his plan and then have a national dialogue on the subject for "several weeks."
Obama acknowledges that the insecurities of the American people are even greater than he expected. He also admits to underestimating the villainy of Republicans in spreading "misinformation" about his plan.
He has proposed having public forums in which he defends the bill from Republican attacks, with "independent" experts on hand to score the debate.
It sounds something like the Dr. Phil show, where dupes and scoundrels come on television to be scolded with professional certitude.
But what the president is really talking about is the kind of dialogue favored by professors who teach courses to clueless freshmen.
My favorite history professor began one introductory-level class by saying, "You've been told all your lives that there are no stupid questions. Not true. You have many stupid questions because you don't know anything yet."
Having failed to eliminate stupid questions from the American people in his year-long introductory course on health care, Professor Obama now proposes an intensive remedial course to get everyone up to speed, assuming that opposition can stem only from ignorance.
"Sometimes we may be moving forward against the prevailing winds. Sometimes it may be against a blizzard." Obama told boisterous Democrats snowed in at their party's annual national meeting in Washington. "But we're going to live up to our responsibility to lead."
Public support for the president's health policies is the same now as it was when he first began his series of lectures, 29 of them in all.
In April of 2009, the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found 33 percent of voters approved of the president's nascent plan. The final survey, taken after Scott Brown backed his truck over Harry Reid's supermajority, showed 31 percent support.
In the same period, 20 percent of the electorate switched from indecision to opposition, now a solid 46 percent.
Is it possible that people are so frightened and Republicans so diabolical that not a single percent of the electorate heeded Obama's repeated calls to submit to a better way of life?
If the president's view of the American polity is correct, how did a 46-year-old freshman senator with lots of baggage and a wafer-thin resume become president over the strenuous efforts of the GOP?
Obama's answer is that he is a transcendent figure.
This is the man who in a speech last week told the tale of a volunteer who died of cancer while pushing for his health plan, and spoke of her wish to be buried in an Obama t-shirt. I know of no other big-time politician who would talk openly of such a macabre tribute from a supporter - either from humility or respect for the dignity of another.
Obama does not acknowledge the collective wisdom of the American electorate. Nor does he hold open the possibility that having taken a risk in 2008 on a relative unknown when the Republican offering seemed a bad bet, voters now believe Obama to be aloof from their concerns and implacably committed to a too-radical agenda.
Lecturing Americans for additional weeks on their erroneous opinions of his health plan will only ingrain that view.
Chris Stirewalt is the political editor of The Washington Examiner. He can be reached at email@example.com