Obama’s 2008 victory, coming amid the greatest economic crisis since the 1930s, opened the door to major reforms. But he quickly faced skepticism from supporters and fierce opposition from Republicans. What happened? Skocpol surveys the political landscape to help us to understand Obama’s triumphs and setbacks and see where we might be headed next.
Skocpol's incisive account of the first two years of the Obama presidency's "new New Deal" begins by highlighting contrasts with the original New Deal era. She emphasizes significant contextual differences (economic conditions, media biases, public attitudes toward government) that would have daunted FDR himself, who, unlike Obama, enjoyed bipartisan support at the beginning of his administration. The extraordinary level of partisan obstructionism that Obama faced from the get-go had its origins in long-term trends he was powerless to counter, namely the overlap between ideological and partisan divisions that began after the civil rights revolution. Skocpol (States and Social Revolutions), professor of government at Harvard, credits Obama with an impressive record of policy achievements (comprehensive health reform, student loan reform, and tightened regulation of financial institutions), explores the reasons why these achievements failed to translate into political capital for the Democrats by the time of the midterm elections, and asks us to consider the possibility that the Republican party's plunge toward antigovernment extremism may have more lasting impact than "Obama's hard-fought attempt at a second New Deal." Informed by pathbreaking research on the Tea Party, Skocpol's provocative, original, and lively analysis is supplemented by contributions from Larry M. Bartels, Mickey Edwards, and Suzanne Mettler. Anyone who is passionately concerned about politics and prefers thoughtful discussion to polemic will find this book invaluable.