An intimate look at three generations of three white, ethnic Catholic families, and their eventual transformation from...


THE INHERITANCE: How Three Families and America Moved from Roosevelt to Reagan and Beyond

An intimate look at three generations of three white, ethnic Catholic families, and their eventual transformation from Democrats to Republicans, from a highly regarded former New York Times reporter. Working backwards from three Republican party activists--Tim Carey, Leslie Maeby, and Frank Trotta--Freedman (Upon this Rock, 1992; Small Victories, 1990) deconstructs their family trees to explain their third-generation mutation away from Depression-era, New Deal Democratic roots. He offers richly detailed portraits of dirt-poor, working-class immigrant patriarchs and matriarchs, their children and grandchildren, and many of the people among whom they live and lived. Freedman presents these families as paradigms of America's shift to the right; he writes that this ""historic realignment depended extensively, even disproportionately, on families like those of Tim Carey, Leslie Maeby, and Frank Trotta--Catholics with Democratic pasts."" Freedman offers no simple explanations for this realignment. Some family members shifted allegiance from Democratic machines to Republican ones in their move from the city to the suburbs; others resented the welfare system and minority demands, comparing them unfavorably to their own by-the-bootstraps experiences. And some--including the three contemporary subjects--turned to conservatism as idealists, in opposition to the perceived failures of liberalism, especially as it affects their class and kind. Freedman deserves credit for not attempting simplistic explanations for this rightward realignment. At the same time, however, he lets the wealth of information he accumulated in his research get away from him, telling us more than we need to know about the inner workings of Montgomery Ward (in connection with the Maeby family) or the tactics employed by Maeby and Carey in recent election campaigns. A book of great value as a manual to Democratic and Republican operatives, and of great interest, as autobiograpy, to the Republican descendants of ethnic New Deal Democrats. A hundred pages shorter, it would appeal to an even broader audience.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996


Page Count: 464

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996