Historian Sean Wilentz presents two key insights that together reveal a clearer, much-needed vision of American political history.
First, partisanship has almost always been a feature of American history and in fact has made possible the nation's greatest social reforms. There is little to be gained from a "postpartisan" political world. Second, the recent attention to economic inequality has a long history. From the founders' generation to the present, America's egalitarian tradition has appeared and reappeared like an underground river.
This egalitarian tradition has triumphed - in the Civil War and Progressive eras, the New Deal, the Great Society - not through some sort of bipartisan partnership nor through outsiders' vital protests but through contentious yet effective party politics.
As he did in The Rise of American Democracy, Wilentz masterfully ties together the key figures and moments of American history to completely refresh our thinking about this nation's political and moral character.
I like Wilentz, but feel this one was more hastily put together, than his other Age of Reagan book. Felt like it ended with kind of an unclear verdict on current state of affairs through a prolonged discussion of Johnson through the eyes of Caro, and a likening and dislikening of Johnson to Obama.