As President Obama's administration evolved and a midterm rebuke loomed, certain historical analogies came to the fore. Would he swing to the center, like Bill Clinton? Or would he hunker down truculently, like Jimmy Carter? Now that the election is over, it may be helpful to see Obama's situation in a different historical context. Two sequences in particular come to mind: the 1934-36 cycle that heralded the flowering of the New Deal and the Roosevelt coalition, and the 1964-66 cycle that marked the decline of Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society. Like FDR and LBJ, Barack Obama was swept into office on a tide of public favor and popular distrust of the GOP. But the popular mood of 2010 echoes 1966 far more than it does 1934. The majority view is not that Obama has impressively confronted the nation's problems, à la FDR, but that, like LBJ, he has stretched his electoral remit into suspect and unpopular policy realms. The tea-party movement - not Obama's 2008 coalition of minorities, the young, independents, and liberals - appears to be the most consequential development in American politics today. It's as if the conservative, anti-New Deal American Liberty League - not the FDR-New Deal coalition - had emerged as the primary political legatee of the 1930s. Can Obama reshape his political destiny in the next couple of years? The political capacity of a president is important; see Carter vs. Clinton. But even more so are the larger, external conditions that define the nation's political life. FDR's personal qualities satisfied the national desire, in a time of depression and threats abroad, for strong, self-confident leadership - for a benign prince. But LBJ's great political skills availed him little in a very different time, when the national mood rejected strong leadership. Obama faces a nation likely to be increasingly skeptical of assertive government at home and abroad. Will he want to adjust his presidential persona to respond to that? Can he do so? Character may affect the shape of destiny, but only rarely can it redirect the course of events. Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer "Key advisers abandon the White House. The "house of cards" has fallen. The bloom is off the rose."