The Obama Presidency: Change and Continuity

The Obama Presidency: Change and Continuity

The Obama Presidency: Change and Continuity

The Obama Presidency: Change and Continuity


At his inauguration, President Barack Obama was seemingly poised to become America's strongest and most influential president since Ronald Reagan. However, President Obama's first two years in office has led to some notable surprises. What accounts for the political stability and change demonstrated by the Obama administration? Which factors shaping a presidency are structural, which are personal, and which are driven by events? How will decisions made in the first two years of the administration affect its future course? What lessons can we glean from past presidencies?

This timely volume of notable thinkers on the presidency presents scholarly as well as applied insights on Obama's administration at the half-way point. Assessing the political context of his first two years, the inter-branch relations, and policy developments all provide the necessary grounding for students to make sense of the continuity and change that Barack Obama represents.


During the 2008 election campaign, Barack Obama ran under the banner of “Change We Can Believe In.” In many ways, his election seemed to represent a turning point in American politics. Obama, born three years before the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and four years before the Voting Rights Act of 1965, was the first president to grow up in an era where civil rights reform was a reality, not a distant dream. Not only did he represent a new generation, but his status as a biracial president also held a certain significance for a large segment of the electorate. Furthermore, his brief political career and calls for bipartisanship held a promise that the ways in which politics would be conducted might change.

However, the recognition of these symbolic milestones still begged an important set of questions. All new presidents inaugurate some sort of change. How would the public view the new president? How would the new administration try to change how the executive branch operated? How would the White House work with the legislative and judicial branches? What policies would be changed and would these policy initiatives represent major reforms or minor changes? Most importantly, would any policy changes survive the next administration or, in the case of a health care reform, the next Congress?

These essays represent an attempt to measure various aspects of the transformative nature of the Obama presidency during its first two years in office. We recognize that fortune can be fickle and that many of our conclusions will need to be reevaluated at the conclusion of the Obama administration. Still, we think this work represents an important step in an ongoing assessment of a historic but also controversial presidency.

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