In 2009, Mr Barack Obama was the most powerful newly elected American president in a generation. Democrats controlled the House and, for about five months in the second half of the year, they enjoyed a filibuster-proof, 60-vote majority in the Senate. For the first six months of his presidency, Mr Obama had an approval rating in the 60s.
Democrats also had a once-in-a-lifetime political opportunity presented by a careening global crisis. Across the country, people were losing jobs and homes in numbers not seen since World War II. Just as in the 1930s, the Republican Party's economic policies were widely thought to have caused the crisis, and Mr Obama and his fellow Democrats were swept into office on a throw-the-bums-out wave.