Barack Obama's America

How New Conceptions of Race, Family, and Religion Ended the Reagan Era
John Kenneth White

Research and reflections on the American demographic shift that led to the election of President Barack Obama


The election of Barack Obama to the presidency marks a conclusive end to the Reagan era, writes John Kenneth White in Barack Obama's America. Reagan symbolized a 1950s and 1960s America, largely white and suburban, with married couples and kids at home, who attended church more often than not.

Obama's election marks a new era, the author writes. Whites will be a minority by 2042. Marriage is at an all-time low. Cohabitation has increased from a half-million couples in 1960 to more than 5 million in 2000 to even more this year. Gay marriages and civil unions are redefining what it means to be a family. And organized religions are suffering, even as Americans continue to think of themselves as a religious people. Obama's inauguration was a defining moment in the political destiny of this country, based largely on demographic shifts, as described in Barack Obama's America.

Cover image: "Out of many, we are one: Dare to Hope: Faces from 2008 Obama Rallies" by Anne C. Savage, view and buy full image at

John Kenneth White is Professor of Politics at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Praise / Awards

  • "John K. White, one of the nation's foremost political scientists, skillfully and with deep insight explores in Barack Obama's America the social and cultural upheavals that have produced a new political era—supplanting 40 years of conservative domination. White's lively and highly readable account of changing morays culminates in the 2008 election which, in his words, 'represented a moment when a new demography caught up to a new politics.' White's literary skills make his description of how 'the Ronald Reagan era has come to a close and the Barack Obama era has begun' attractive and accessible to both the layman and the specialist. Barack Obama's America is essential reading for all those seeking to make sense of the transformation of American politics in the past few years."
    —Thomas Edsall, Columbia Journalism Professor and Huffington Post Political Editor and author of Building Red America: The New Conservative Coalition and the Drive for Power

  • "John Kenneth White is bold. He asks the big questions . . . Who are we? What do we claim to believe? How do we actually live? What are our politics? John Kenneth White writes compellingly about religion and the role it played in making Barack Obama president. White's keen insight into America's many faiths clarifies why Barack Obama succeeded against all odds. It is a fascinating description of religion and politics in 21st century America—a must read."
    —Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland and author of Failing America's Faithful: How Today's Churches Are Mixing God with Politics and Losing Their Way

  • "John White has been well ahead of the rest of us in identifying the societal transformations in progress and then developing their lasting political consequences. Barack Obama's America is a major contribution to the study of social transformation and political change, one that sets the standard for understanding such developments."
    —William Crotty, Thomas P. O'Neill Chair in Public Life, and Director, Center for the Study of Democracy, Department of Political Science, Northeastern University

  • "There are only a few authors that are on top of the big themes that define this country. I put John Kenneth White at the top of the list with Garry Wills, Alan Wolfe, and Richard Florida. I can always count on John for meticulous research, historical context, and the best trend analysis."
    —John Zogby, President/CEO of Zogby International and author of The Way We'll Be: The Zogby Report on the Transformation of the American Dream

  • "From one of the nation's foremost experts on how values shape our politics, a clear and compelling account of the dramatic shifts in social attitudes that are transforming American political culture.  White's masterful blend of narrative and data illuminates the arc of electoral history from Reagan to Obama, making a powerful case for why we are entering a new progressive political era."
    —Matthew R. Kerbel, Villanova University, author of Netroots: Online Progressives and the Transformation of American Politics

  • "This delightfully written and accessible book is the best available account of the changes in culture, society and politics that have given us Barak Obama's America."
    —Stan Greenberg, pollster for Bill Clinton and Chairman and CEO of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research

  • "White's Barack Obama's America eloquently captures both the important nuances of the current political scene and its long-term consequences."
    —Richard Wirthlin, former pollster to Ronald Reagan

  • "John White has always caught important trends in American politics that others missed. With his shrewd analysis of why Barack Obama won, he's done it again."
    —E. J. Dionne, Jr., Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution, and University Professor in the Foundations of Democracy and Culture at Georgetown University

  • "In Barack Obama's America, John Kenneth White has written the political equivalent of Baedeker or Michelin, the definitive guide to and through the new, uncharted political landscape of our world. White captures and explains what America means—and what it means to be an American—in the twenty-first century."
    —Mark Shields, nationally syndicated columnist and political commentator for PBS NewsHour

  • "John Kenneth White has written a timely book, particularly well-suited for readers of this decade."
    —Evelyn M. Simien, Political Science Quarterly

  • "The work is both readable and entertaining, and the combination of history, big ideas, and accessibility makes it a good target for an undergraduate audience."
    —Anand Edward Sokhey, The University of Colorado at Boulder, Congress & the Presidency

  • "Barack Obama's America is an approachable and entertaining study of the conflicts and forces underlying social and cultural change."
    --S.T. Campagna-Pinto,  Anglican Theological Review

Look Inside

Copyright © 2009, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Supplemental Materials

News, Reviews, Interviews

John White's Views on American Society:

Read: BestThinking | 9/24/2010

Read: Op-Ed Washington Post | 6/28/2010

Read: Review Tikkun Daily | 9/11/2009

Read: The National Catholic Reporter | 9/4/2009

Read: Q&A with John Kenneth White | PDF | 9/1/2009

Read: The Page 99 Test | 8/30/2009

Watch: John Kenneth White on BookTV | 11/22/2009

Listen: UMP Author Podcast Series: John Kenneth White | MP3 | September 2009

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 320pp.
  • 14 Tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2009
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11450-4

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  • $69.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2009
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03391-1

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  • $29.95 U.S.

  • Open Access
  • 2009
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-90090-9

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  • Barack Obama, Election of 2008, Ronald Reagan, Democratic party, Republican party, Political parties, Race, Family, Religion, American Catholicism, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Gay Rights