Episode Three


Accepting the nomination for president in 1936, Franklin D. Roosevelt acknowledged a fundamental challenge of American democracy : “For too many of us, the political equality we once had won, was meaningless in the face of economic inequality.” In the depths of the Great Depression, how did America’s democracy survive that crisis? And, with inequality now at the highest rate since the depression, is our democracy ready to answer the challenge again? Robert Dallek, author of Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life;  Lawrence Jacobs, editor of Inequality and American Democracy.  


Robert Dallek

Lawrence Jacobs

Robert Dallek is the author of An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President, and Nixon and Kissinger, among other books. His writing has appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Atlantic Monthly, and Vanity Fair. He is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Society of American Historians, for which he served as president in 2004–2005.  His most recent book is Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life.

Lawrence R. Jacobs is the Walter F. and Joan Mondale Chair for Political Studies and director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance in the Hubert H. Humphrey School and the Department of Political Science at the University of Minnesota. The Center is a preeminent hub for political and policy analysis in the Midwest.  Jacobs has published 16 books and edited volumes and dozens of articles on elections, legislative and presidential politics, elections and public opinion, and a range of public policies. He chaired the Task Force on Inequality and American Democracy, which was convened by the American Political Science Association and is co-editor with Theda Skocpol of Inequality and American Democracy: What We Know and What We Need to Learn.


Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life

by Robert Dallek

Inequality and American Democracy: What We Know and What We Need to Learn

by Lawrence R. Jacobs (Editor), Theda Skocpol (Editor)

“Robert Dallek’s brilliant portrayal of Franklin D. Roosevelt is an inspiring read, a timely reminder that political leadership involves judgment and intelligence. Battling the Great Depression and a global war, the 32nd president harnessed wisdom to decision making, and political acumen to governance. No historian understands FDR better than Dallek, who has captured in this single page-turning volume how America was really ‘made great again.’”
—Martin J. Sherwin, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer

In the twentieth century, the United States ended some of its most flagrant inequalities. The “rights revolution” ended statutory prohibitions against women’s suffrage and opened the doors of voting booths to African Americans. Yet a more insidious form of inequality has emerged since the 1970s―economic inequality―which appears to have stalled and, in some arenas, reversed progress toward realizing American ideals of democracy. In Inequality and American Democracy, editors Lawrence Jacobs and Theda Skocpol headline a distinguished group of political scientists in assessing whether rising economic inequality now threatens hard-won victories in the long struggle to achieve political equality in the United States. Inequality and American Democracy addresses disparities at all levels of the political and policy-making process.