FRONTLINE | Divided States of America
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Courtesy of Andrew Geraci / District 7 Media


Watch Tuesday and Wednesday, January 17-18, 2017 at 9pm on WMHT-TV

Featuring new, in-depth interviews with White House officials, Cabinet members, and senior Congressional leaders from both parties, as well as one of the richest archives in broadcast journalism, Divided States examines how Barack Obama’s promise of change and unity — and his belief in the possibility of bipartisanship — quickly collided with political realities and racially-charged resistance.

A year in the making, this epic, four-hour series tells the inside story of Obama’s presidency, explores the civil war within the Republican party, and identifies turning points over the past eight years that exposed simmering divisions among the American people.

Divided States examines the roots of the partisan gridlock, populist anger, and racial tensions that charged the 2016 presidential campaign, including:

  • How the popularity of Sarah Palin’s anti-elite, anti-establishment message in the heartland — and disdain for it on the coasts — presaged Trump’s rhetoric and its reception;
  • How Obama’s handling of the financial crisis fueled the rise of populist anger on both sides of the aisle — even as it also sparked economic recovery;
  • How the battle over the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) sowed the seeds for years of division and the surge of the Tea Party movement, and accelerated a new political climate in which incivility towards the President wasn’t just accepted, but rewarded;
  • The complicated role of race during America’s first black presidency: “The great irony of the Obama presidency, right, is someone who came on the mandate of changing Washington as we know it… by his very presence and by his very humanity – who he was, the color of his skin, the sound of his name – forced more polarization and gridlock than we had seen in the eight years prior,” Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post tells FRONTLINE.


Ultimately, Divided States is a revelatory story not just about Barack Obama’s presidency, but America itself.