I'll preface what I write by saying that, though I live in Australia, it is legitimate for me - and anyone else in the world - to comment on affairs in the USA, simply/complexly because Washington at least tries to run a global empire, which affects everyone on this planet, so the election of Obama is not just a matter for people in the USA.
That said: my general inclination is to be as succinct as possible and try to cut to the chase
One good thing that has come out of the Bush years is that perhaps a majority of people in the US now acknowledge that there actually is a Washington Empire - similar to the Roman, London, etc. empires ... whereas it formerly seems to have been the case that most of the population of the USA used to imagine that Washington was some kind of benign (or even philanthropic) force in the world, despite the genocidal wars against native peoples, which expanded the mainland empire from the original thirteen states ... despite the Spanish/Mexican wars ... despite the extention of war into just about anywhere anyone might care to mention ... but let's just mention Vietnam, Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan. And let's note that there are some 700 US military bases around the world, with FAR from just Germany and Japan still being "occupied territories" effectively.
Why did it take so long for people in the US to wake up to the fact that they were supporting an empire ... and the first truly global one?
OK that hurdle has been got over, but there is a long way to go.
Obama is a "liberal" (maybe).
Fancy some 60% of people in the US suddenly not having too much of a problem with a president who apparently embraces tolerant attitudes ... heck he might just engage in dialogue with disaffected minorities and even Russia and Iran.
So it appears that "liberal" is no longer a swear word with the majority of people in the US, but the same cannot be said of the word "socialist" ... so there is still a long way to go.
FDR was a sort of socialist, because he introduced safety nets for people, who no fault of their own, ended up in a very hard time
The fact of the matter is that, in a "traditional society" (e.g. any tribe) everyone looked out for each other.
I am not idealizing tribes, but the fact of the matter is that there was no need for formal/paid for/institutional forms of childcare, a police force, standing army, aged care and a myriad other things (necessary to existence) needed to replace formerly entirely free forms of mutual support, which our species cannot possibly do without, e.g. we are born completely helpless and remain so for some 16 years, at least.
Something has to fill the gap and (I suggest) European forms of socialism (which includes Australia) tends to do that quite well.
"Socialism" - an attempt to replace people being really concerned about each other - can never replace what originally was in tribes, but throughout Europe and Australia (Canada and New Zealand) there is an ethos which, for instance, embraces the socialist conception that, for instance, everyone should be entitled to free health care. And it works.
The US is the odd man out in all this.
No other people on this planet totally reject at least some form of "socialism" and no other people are less willing to debate the various shades of socialism, from the extreme of Maoism, to the moderation of most European countries.
As regards moderation: I recommend the reading of J K Galbraith, especially "The Affluent Society", which altered my entire way of thinking.