What is the political and economic significance of the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States?
Well, the obvious answer is that for the first time we have an African American as President. I am hoping that this means we have gotten beyond earlier prejudices that previously made such an outcome difficult to imagine. It will be interesting to see if members of other groups eventually become President. I suspect that this will happen sooner than we imagine. At least two Mormons are running for President this year, and of course Hermain Cain seemed to be winning wide acceptance as a Republican candidate before he ended his campaign.
The last election and the push towards what many consider socialist programs along with the appointments of two controversial Supreme Court Justices and the ensusing suits of the Federal government against states that have laws against illegals have caused a tremendous divide in the country of the United States of America.
Politics have become increasingly partisan during the first three years of the Obama presidency, though it's hard to know how much that has to do with his presidency and how much it is related to economic stress and other factors. A recent British magazine cover article lamented the decline of "the middle" in American politics. I think that's what the last few years will be remembered for, whatever happens in the next election. So far, the most vocal representatives of this trend have been on the right, but as the Occupy Wall Street protests have shown, there's plenty of anger on the left as well.
The major political significance of Obama's election to this point appears to be that it has helped to bring about the rise of the Tea Party in American politics. Obama is seen as enough of a big government liberal to motivate many people to move towards political opinions like those of the Tea Party. This is having a major impact on American politics and the politics of the Republican Party in particular.
Economically, I would argue Obama's election has had little or no significance. Presidents are not nearly as important in determining the state of the economy as people think they are. Obama has come into a bad situation that has not improved much. I do not believe, though, that it is his fault that the economy has not improved.