The fundamental test that Obama faces is not so much about the timescale or extent of his policy changes, but about the conflicting bases of his underlying support.
Millions of working class people voted for Obama in the hope that he will reverse the unemployment, insecurity, long hours and low pay that plague their lives.
Some 73 percent of the poorest American voters – those with a family income less than $15,000 a year – plumped for Obama over his rival John McCain.
Yet Obama also won support, not to mention large amounts of cash, from sections of the ruling class and from corporate backers.
They saw in him a chance to distance the US from some of the worst embarassments of the Bush administration.
What they hope to gain from Obama is different to the change that many ordinary Americans yearn for. And that means these changes will have to be fought for.
Obama’s campaign revealed the scale of anger, hope and fear that exists among ordinary Americans. This feeling can only deepen as the global recession bites harder.
It also went some way towards forging a collective confidence among ordinary people in the US that they can organise and win. If this sense deepens, it can pull the US people sharply to the left.