Suzy 's Reviews > The Inheritance: How Three Families and the American Political Majority Moved From Left to Right

The Inheritance by Samuel G. Freedman
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Mar 25, 2011

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Recommended to Suzy by: Meg
Read from March 01 to 23, 2011

This book follows three immigrant families through 4 generations into the mid-nineties and purports to show how and why these families went from Democrats in the beginning to activist Republicans by the end. Not only that, Freedman aims to show that these families illustrate a national trend. I enjoyed reading the book in the beginning, but not so much by the time we got to the fourth generation as adults. Not that I didn't like them as people (big of me, as they were activist Republicans) but that the book became very detailed in its description of how the politics they were involved in worked. I think it was all the more draggy because that era was not so long ago as to be a curiosity, but not current enough to be interesting, to me anyway.
There was a lot that was thought provoking in the book. I think most provoking was just seeing how both parties work as machines, keeping the Ins in and the Outs out. One memorable quotation (paraphrased) said politics isn't so much a contest between parties as a contest between incumbents and non-incumbents. Politics turns out to be essentially less we the people voting than we the people getting manipulated. Yucckk.
Back to the premise of the book, what occurred to me is that this trend that Freedman discovered and documented--if truly a trend--wasn't so much about Democrats becoming disillusioned with their party over the generations, but about working class immigrant families who were Democrats becoming disillusioned over the generations. As soon as they became more educated and more middle class, they tilted right. But what about other constituencies of Democrats, like Jews, Ivy League Grads/Intellectuals, Artists/Entertainers and Blacks? None of these groups followed the same economic trends, except maybe Blacks, and none of these groups tilted right. So, it seems that really, it is the move from have nots to haves, as a group, that accounts for the change. Maybe that's all Freedman is saying, after all. The book raises a lot of questions.

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Reading Progress

03/01/2011 page 40
9.0% "So far so good. It's from a big stack I just borrowed from my daughter."

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message 1: by Meagan (last edited Mar 26, 2011 12:36PM) (new)

Meagan I am surprised in reading the complete title of this book (I only remembered the title as being "The Inheritance") and your summary/review of it. Although I have read it around 10 years ago, and indeed it was my copy you were reading, I did not remember that it had anything to do with politics. Of course you are right that it does (the title makes that clear) and now that I am reminded of it, I do remember, but it is interesting to me that wasn't any part of what I found memorable. I remember deeply enjoying the book because of the detail about the lives of specific, real people at various times in the past...but I don't remember a lot beyond that. I did not recall the book having any particular point (although I guess that's sort of illogical that it wouldn't).

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