Immigration reform, another White House priority, will also stoke ideological differences and test the demographic shifts in Congress. For the first time, the House Democratic caucus is dominated by women and racial minorities, while the Republican caucus in that chamber is largely composed of white men. In the Senate, 20 women --- the largest number in history --- currently hold office.
But women and minorities are far outnumbered and outranked by white males on some of the most powerful congressional committees. And despite several high-ranking exceptions, Obama's Cabinet -- so far -- is shaping up to be largely male and white.
"The first thing we learned is that we're not post-race. That was a lot of willful imagining in '08 that his election would allow us to transcend these questions of race," said Mark Anthony Neal, a cultural and Black studies professor at Duke University. "The American electorate is looking different in terms of race and ethnicity and young folks being engaged. In 2016 our political realities will look more like our demographic realities."
And that's where the nation's shift over the next four years may be most visible.
But look first to the 2014 midterms and then the 2016 presidential election to see if the people signal continued frustration with the current regime -- in Congress and in the White House -- or demonstrate through the power of their vote that they feel the nation has finally turned the corner.