A massive (840 pp.) but disappointingly superficial chronicle of the past 60 years of American political tradition. Barone is a senior writer for US News and Worm Report. As an on-the-scene commentator in Washington for many years, the author has an excellent grasp of trends, and with hindsight can pinpoint the significant historical moments as he sees them--here tracing out an underlying premise that cultural rather than economic issues have played the predominant role in determining national policy for much of this century. Starting in the 20's with Charles Murphy, a Tammany Hall Democrat and Irish Catholic, and William Howard Taft, a WASP Republican, Barone interweaves cultural influences and political party lines--but his analysis ends there. Skimming only the surface of subsequent political and social events, he goes on to point out virtually every noteworthy occurrence, nationally or internationally, including Roosevelt's New Deal difficulties, Cold War politics, Vietnam and the watershed Nixon years, and concludes by totalling up the tribulations of the Reagan era. As a compendium of news briefs and capsule summaries, this is remarkable stuff, but anyone looking for persuasive commentary and illuminating criticism will have to turn elsewhere. Demographics and other statistics are rolled out by the barrel, but such details overwhelm any claim to substance here, giving the impression that Barone has little new to add.