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Reaching for a New Deal

With the support of the Foundation, political scientists Theda Skocpol (Harvard University) and Lawrence Jacobs (University of Minnesota) formed a working group to track the course and fate of Obama's efforts to reorient domestic policy during 2009 and 2010. Members traced developments in eight specific policy areas: health reform, financial regulation, energy and climate change, tax policy, higher education funding, primary and secondary school reform, immigration policy, and labor law reform. Employing a variety of data sources, including interviews with key actors, the scholars in this project highlight the institutional and political constraints that channel and limit changes, especially changes intended to mitigate social and economic inequalities in the United States.

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Reaching For A New Deal: Ambitious Governance, Economic Meltdown, and Polarized Politics in Obama's First Two Years
Edited by Theda Skocpol and Lawrence Jacobs, Reaching for a New Deal combines probing analyses of Obama’s domestic policy achievements with a big picture look at his change-oriented presidency. The book uses struggles over policy changes as a window into the larger dynamics of American politics and situates the current political era in relation to earlier pivotal junctures in U.S. government and public policy.

Health Care Reform and American Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know
Published by Oxford University Press, Health Care Reform and American Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know provides a concise and accessible overview of the health reform legislation signed into law by President Obama. Lawrence R. Jacobs and Theda Skocpol explain the political battles of 2009 and 2010, highlighting White House strategies, the deals Democrats cut with interest groups, and the impact of agitation by Tea Partiers and progressives.

Multimedia: Interactive Timelines


Energy Reform
This interactive timeline summarizes the major energy bills proposed between 2003 and 2010.


Health Care Reform
This timeline documents key moments in the effort to pass health care reform legislation. The timeline includes primary documents, news articles and information on the legislation's planned implementation.


Immigration Reform
This interactive timeline summarizes the major immigration laws passed, debated or proposed in the U.S. Congress since 1965.

Working Group Members


Editor: Theda Skocpol
Theda Skocpol is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University. Her books and articles have been widely cited in political science literature and have won numerous awards, including the 1993 Woodrow Wilson Award of the American Political Science Association for the best book in political science for the previous year.


Editor: Lawrence R. Jacobs
Lawrence R. Jacobs is the Walter F. and Joan Mondale Chair for Political Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance in the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute and the Department of Political Science at the University of Minnesota. His Center is a preeminent hub for political and policy analysis in the Midwest.


Suzanne Mettler
Suzanne Mettler is the Clinton Rossiter Professor of American Institutions at Cornell University. Her research and teaching focus on American political development, public policy, and political behavior. She is particularly interested in issues pertaining to gender and politics, race and politics, democratization, inequality, and citizenship.


Daniel Carpenter
Daniel Carpenter is the Freed Professor of Government at Harvard University. He mixes theoretical, historical, statistical and mathematical analyses to examine the development of political institutions, particularly in the United States. He focuses upon public bureaucracies and government regulation, particularly regulation of health and financial products.


Dorian T. Warren
Dorian T. Warren is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. A former RSF Visiting Scholar, Warren specializes in the study of inequality and American politics, focusing on the political organization of marginalized groups.


Lorraine M. McDonnell
Lorraine M. McDonnell is a professor of politics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research has focused on the design and implementation of K-12 education policies and their effects on school practice.


John D. Skrentny
John D. Skrentny is the director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California, San Diego. His research focuses on public policy, law and inequality, especially as they relate to immigration and civil rights.


Judith Layzer
Judith Layzer is an Associate Professor of Environmental Policy at M.I.T. Her research and teaching focuses on the roles of science, values, and storytelling in environmental politics.


Andrea Louise Campbell
Andrea Louise Campbell is Associate Professor of political science at M.I.T. Her interests include American politics, political behavior, public opinion, and political inequality, particularly their intersection with social welfare policy, health policy, and tax policy.