From the mid-30s to the mid-70s, the American political establishment had a New Deal liberal domestic consensus in place, it seems to me. Even the Republicans, dominated by Northern moderates, seemed content to leave New Deal programs in place. During that time, America saw the greatest income and wealth equality ever known.
With the rise of modern conservatism and its conquest of the political realm in 1980, the New Deal understandings were destroyed and replaced by a new free-market, anti-government (except for defense and intelligence spending) ideology, which came to dominate both political parties. It also led to the hollowing out of the American economy, the rise of the casino financial sector, and a return to levels of income and wealth inequality not seen since the 20s.
There seems to be a majority desire to return to the New Deal, mid-20th century political arrangement, and I think that is what people were voting for in the 2008 election. Yet that is not what is happening. The Democratic Party is still controlled at the Washington level (especially in the Senate and also in the White House) by neo-liberals and conservatives who are not letting go of the Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush ways of doing things.
The pendulum swing that was supposed to happen is not happening. What happens now is anyone's guess.