Barack Obama takes office after eight years of a disastrous administration. Two bungled wars, a record-setting deficit, a near-economic collapse, and a government that isn’t trusted at home or abroad have become the legacy of not just George W. Bush’s presidency, but of the nearly unchecked ascent of conservative ideology in government.
As he charts a new course, Obama’s starting-point is the America he inherits from George W. Bush. While many magazines and journals are taking the opportunity to look back at the politics and policies of the past eight years through the standard metrics of economic growth, poverty rates, programs passed, and the like, we at Democracy set out to do something unique: to assess where America stands as measured by the values that define our nation–equality, opportunity, community, democracy, and liberty.
To do this, we asked some of the nation’s most distinguished progressive thinkers to offer their take on the state of America at the end of the Bush presidency with regards to these values, and what that means for the next president. We gave them wide latitude on how broadly or narrowly to define the question, but we asked them to think deeply about how much America has changed and what needs to be done to reinvigorate these ideals. Taken together, these essays paint a picture of where America stands as we look toward a new political era: Obama’s America.