The Great Exception

The New Deal and the Limits of American Politics

"The central argument of Jefferson Cowie’s compelling new book, The Great Exception, is that the New Deal political order should be thought of as a historical outlier. Contrary to Obama’s and Sanders’s implication, the New Deal’s marshaling of governmental effort on behalf of economic security and worker empowerment was hardly as American as apple pie.”— Sam Rosenfeld, Wesleyan University.  

From the 1930s through the 1970s, the government used its considerable resources on behalf of working Americans in ways that it had not before and has not since. Cowie shows how any renewed American battle for collective economic rights today needs to build on an understanding of how the New Deal was won—and how it ultimately succumbed. As positive as the era of Roosevelt was in creating a more equitable society, Cowie suggests that the New Deal may belong more to the past than the future of American politics. 

Join New America and author Jefferson Cowie for a conversation about the New Deal and where it fits in the big picture of American history, as we try to make sense of recurring puzzles in American political experience. What does it mean for us today? What happened to the economic equality it once engendered?

Follow the conversation online using #TheGreatException and by following @PolReformNA


Jefferson Cowie
Author, The Great Exception: The New Deal and the Limits of American Politics
James G. Stahlman Professor, Department of History, Vanderbilt University

Vanessa Williamson
Co-author, The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism
Fellow in Governance Studies, Brookings Institution

Rich Yeselson
Contributing Editor, Dissent


Mark Schmitt
Director, Political Reform Program, and Director of Studies, New America