Book: The Inheritance: How Three Families and America Moved from Roosevelt to Reagan and Beyond

Cover image

The Inheritance: How Three Families and America Moved from Roosevelt to Reagan and Beyond

Author: Samuel G. Freedman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

In a chronicle of three generations of three working-class families, award-winning journalist Samuel G. Freedman tells the human story of the political transformation of twentieth-century America—the rise and fall of FDR’s New Deal coalition and its displacement by the new conservatism of Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich. This is the single most important political phenomenon of our times.

Freedman has selected three families who are at once singular and broadly representative. They are families who reached this country just as the century was beginning and struggled as blacksmiths and domestics and butchers and plumbers to gain a foothold. They are families who acted on their beliefs not only by voting but also by organizing neighborhoods and leading union chapters, canvassing precincts and watching polls and marching in torch-light parades. These families were pillars of the Democratic coalition that largely led America from 1932 until 1968—community activists, trade unionists, machine politicians, with loyalties based on religion, ethnicity, and social class.

These families equally embody the forces that shifted the majority into Republican hands for all but four years between 1968 and 1992—grievances about taxes, crime, and reverse discrimination; the rise of suburbia and a shift to a new political machine based on private financing for development rather than public works. They are individuals who shifted from New Deal Democrats to Reagan Republicans to a mixture of GOP stalwarts, hesitant Clinton backers, and political dropouts. And in so doing, they carried with them a nation’s destiny. The Inheritance will change our understanding of how and why America selects its leaders.


Samuel G. Freedman traces the story of three families to show how America moved from supporting New Deal policies to cheering the end of big government. It’s an effective vehicle that brings a real-life, personal look to a generational sweep of American politics. The families started out as hard-working immigrants—one Irish, one Italian, one Polish—and became, by the third generation, professionals active in conservative politics. How does a family make the transformation from one that couldn’t have survived the Great Depression without the W.P.A. or bought a house without the G.I. Bill to one that has turned against welfare? Read this fascinating account and find out.

Views: 327 • Modified: • Elapsed: 0.015 sec