Changing country sees its reflection in Obama





When Barack Obama lifts his hand from Abraham Lincoln's Bible at his inauguration, he won't be just the new president of the U.S. He'll be the face of a new era.
He's not the cause of the changing times, either the upheaval in the land or the hunger for something new seen in the million or more faces who'll stream into Washington to watch him take the oath.

Rather, he reflects a new age that's already dawning. It's one marked by sweeping cultural, demographic and economic changes that are promising — or threatening — to tear down the old order and build something new in its place.

A new, more tolerant and pragmatic generation is asserting itself as the one that came of age in the 1960s heads toward retirement. Waves of immigrants are testing whether the country will still be a melting pot producing one society out of different cultures. Minorities, who've always been part of the country's fabric, are racing ever faster toward becoming the majority....

The impact on the culture is already profound. So is the impact on politics.

In just the 20 years from 1988 to 2008, the slice of the presidential vote represented by minorities jumped by 11 percentage points. At the same time, the white working-class share dropped by 15 percentage points.

"Those are pretty big shifts. It shows how fast the playing field is changing," said Ruy Teixeira, the author of a groundbreaking book arguing that shifting demographics and the rise of younger, better-educated and more diverse voters are creating a new political landscape more hospitable to Democrats.



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