All in the Family The Realignment of American Democracy since the 1960s Robert O. Self Hill and Wang, $30, 495 pp.
How do we assess Barack Obama’s presidency, or as Democrats optimistically say in these final weeks before the election, “his first term”?
From a historical point of view the question is surely premature. Nevertheless, Harvard’s Theda Skocpol is not deterred. Skocpol is best known for her analysis of the origins of the American welfare state, whose first initiatives actually began not with the New Deal but in the late nineteenth century with pensions for widowed mothers and Union Civil War veterans. She has also dived into contemporary history with a study of President Bill Clinton’s failed effort to pass a national health-care law, published in 1996, even before the Democrats had finished licking their wounds.
Obama and America’s Political Future is equally of the moment. It tracks the political upheaval of the past four years, from Obama’s decisive...