Monday, September 22, 2014

Teddy Roosevelt and Leonard Wood: Partners in Command by John S.D. Eisenhower

By Matthew Linenbroker

Simon and Garfunkel. Antony and Cleopatra. Abbott and Costello. John and Yoko.
Okay, not John and Yoko. No one actually liked Yoko, did they? 
But my point still stands! History has a way of bringing people together, people with compatible strengths and weaknesses who, together, can forge their way through the world and make their mark.
Partners in crime. Partners in comedy. Partners in song. And partners in command.
Part of me would very much like to imagine President Roosevelt, lieutenant colonel of the Rough Riders at the time, dressed in black polyester and Kevlar, mask covering his face, cape fluttering in the wind, riding his trusty Bat-Steed off towards the Bat Signal glaring over San Juan Hill. And who is by his side? Commanding colonel and boy wonder Leonard Wood.
I know, I know, it’s a weird image – Leonard Wood could totally be Batman, and Roosevelt be Robin. I don’t think there’s a right way to sort it. But if I didn’t compare Roosevelt and Wood to the greatest (sadly fictional) duo ever, well, to quote Roosevelt, I would “consider myself the damndest ass within ten miles of this camp!”
            How we handle the extraordinary circumstances life so often dumps us in is the true showing of our character. Roosevelt and Wood’s bond in Partners in Command showcases the way that two vastly different people can do more together than they ever could have alone. Each with an insatiable ambition and overwhelming zeal for the United States, together the two men make history and propel themselves and their country to a better standing.

            Below is an excerpt from Chapter 5 of Teddy Roosevelt and Leonard Wood: Partners in Command by John  S.D. Eisenhower:

Leonard Wood knew that his appointment as a line officer, even of volunteers, would cause resentment in the Regular Army. However, his ambition far overcame his inhibitions. He knew he was prepared for that transition, for in his off hours throughout his years of doctoring he had been studying tactics and military history with a view to this end. On learning of the sinking of the Maine, therefore, he had lost no time in approaching President McKinley and volunteering his services as a line officer of any grade. McKinley refused the request, primarily because he hated to lose the services of the doctor upon whom his sick wife was so dependent. The president, however, promised not to stand in Wood’s way if he could attain his goals by dealing directly with the Army authorities.
Wood’s task in convincing the Army authorities was more difficult than manipulating McKinley, for the regulars, especially the West Pointers, believed they had a monopoly on military knowledge. Wood’s recent award of the Medal of Honor, which had been pending for a dozen years, did little to further his cause, because his services in earning it had involved duties other than those of a line officer.
Unable to sell himself to the War Department, Wood resolved to attain his ends as a volunteer, the appointee of a state governor. Armed with lavish recommendations from Roosevelt, Army chief Nelson Miles, and even Secretary of War Alger, he approached the governor of his home state of Massachusetts. The governor, however, had no intention of organizing such a regiment. Wood also met failure in New York, but for another reason: that governor had his own favorite son in case such a unit should be called up.
Finally, fortune smiled from two directions. Roosevelt had begun his campaign, and the governor of Arizona, where Wood was still a big hero, decided to contribute a volunteer unit as a gift to the nation. Senator Francis Warren of Wyoming was also creating a similar unit. Secretary Alger finally agreed to organize several volunteer regiments, of which three would be cavalry. The first would be commanded by Wood, with Roosevelt as his lieutenant colonel. It was really a political act; the professional head of the Army, General Miles, appeared to lack interest in organizing any volunteer regiments at all.
But Roosevelt had broken the bureaucratic barriers, and Wood’s greatest ambitions had been exceeded: he was to be the colonel of a regiment. He was ready. Once his appointment had been confirmed, he flew into action. He even knew the location where he wanted the regiment to be recruited and trained: a large piece of unoccupied territory near San Antonio, Texas. He also knew what he wanted in other matters. He insisted, for example, on issuing his troopers a lightweight tan uniform, far different from the heavy blue of the regulars. He also knew the type of boots he wanted, based on the report he had sent to Washington from Arizona many years previously. In the matter of armament, he would accept only the best. He demanded that his men be issued the same rifles as those of the regulars, the new Krag Jørgensen. Wood made all these arrangements informally with the chief of ordnance and the quartermaster general, but to implement them officially he needed to have them ordered formally by the secretary of war. Taking no chances on Alger’s shillyshallying, Wood brought the stack of orders for his requests into the secretary’s office all at once. In a short period, a be-wildered Alger had given Wood all that he wanted. Wood was then ready to depart Washington for San Antonio.
On arriving at his destination, Wood had many urgent tasks to accomplish. Although there would be overlap, he had a set of priorities. First was sanitation, second was housing, third was the reception of incoming packets of troops, then came the issue of clothing and equipment, and finally came the instruction of noncommissioned officers. Mixed with all these activities were training of new recruits, care of mounts, drill, and ceremonies. Wood performed this program with quiet dignity and intensity. Occasionally, Wood slipped out of his role. On one occasion, when a young soldier was flung against a tree by a recalcitrant mount, the colonel was quickly on his knees beside him: the commanding officer had temporarily been transformed into a physician. He took pride in the regiment and his role as its commanding officer. It was always, despite public perception, Wood’s regiment.
Although Roosevelt’s appointment as Wood’s lieutenant colonel was effective in early–May 1898, he did not leave Washington for Texas immediately. He and Wood had decided that he would be more useful for the moment by staying behind to see to it that the War Department came through with its promises— even written orders. It was well that Roosevelt did so, because the administrative services were slow to respond. On May 10, however, Roosevelt was able to send a message to the friend he now called “Colonel Wood”: “I spent a good deal of yesterday and today fussing with the Ordnance and Quartermaster General’s Department. They have sent out tracers and tell me that by day after tomorrow the rifles and most of the supplies will be at San Antonio. I hope you got your horses pretty well purchased by this time. The enclosed letter shows that you are allowed to purchase over the number if necessary.”
Roosevelt had another incentive to stay in the East for a while. He was re-solved to do some recruiting among men he particularly wanted. He made visits to the campuses of Ivy League universities, especially his own alma mater, Harvard. His theme, which seems startling today, was that the privileged classes of American society must take the lead in fighting the war. So effective were his efforts that he found himself somewhat embarrassed by the fact that he was overwhelmed with men intent on joining him. He finally selected about fifty, among them two star football quarterbacks from Harvard, a champion high jumper, a former US tennis champion, and a group of polo players. He did not, however, restrict himself to the universities; he also signed up some former members of the New York Police Force. He took great pride in the fact that almost none of these volunteers asked to come in as commissioned officers; they were content to serve as privates.
The easterners whom Roosevelt had recruited would actually constitute only a small fraction of the twelve hundred men of the Rough Riders, but Roosevelt’s visibility in recruiting them gave the public the impression that the regiment was Roosevelt’s. At one point, a friend of Wood’s from New York wrote in protest. “The newspapers about here keep talking about Roosevelt’s regiment. Give the reporters a bit of discipline and have things called by their right name.” This type of thing did not make Wood happy, but he took it philosophically. Not long after, Wood wrote a friend: “It was not long after I had been joined by Roosevelt at San Antonio, when I realized that if the campaign lasted for any considerable length of time I would be kicked upstairs to make room for the promotion of Roosevelt. I decided that, if that should happen, I would see to it that no matter in what situation I found myself, I would find justification of my being there and find a job that needed doing and would do it with all my power.”
Despite the publicity engendered by Roosevelt’s activities in the East, the basic character of the regiment followed the style of rough men from the Southwest. Most were cowboys and ranchers, although the roster also included professional men. To take them in, Wood had asked the local governors to set up about a dozen reception centers. Once his men were inducted and sworn in, they were subjected to extensive training, so intensive that the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry Regiment became known as the “Rough Riders,” the name that has lived on in history.
Roosevelt, despite his time in the Dakotas, was highly impressed by the sturdiness of the men of the regiment. In a letter to Senator Lodge, he bub-bled with enthusiasm:
It is as typical an American regiment as ever marched or fought. I suppose that about 95 per cent of the men are of native birth, but we have a few from everywhere, including a score of Indians and about as many men of Mexican origin from New Mexico, then there are some fifty Easterners—almost all graduates of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc,—and almost as many southerners, the rest are from the plains and the Rocky Mountains. Three fourths of our men have at one time or another been cowboys or small stockmen, certainly two thirds have fathers who fought on one side or the other in the civil war. . . . These men are in [the Army] because they want to be in it. They are intelligent as well as game.
Roosevelt was also content with the quality of his officers. Many of them were veterans of the Regular Army, who had fought against Apache, Ute, and Cheyenne. Some had previously been federal marshals. One individual whom Roosevelt singled out for praise was Bucky O’Neill, the current mayor of Prescott, Arizona. O’Neill had taken a leave of absence from civic duties to command Troop “A.” Roosevelt described him as “a famous sheriff throughout the West for his feats of victorious warfare against the Apache, no less than against the white road–agents and man–killers. His father had fought in Meagher’s Brigade in the Civil War, and he himself was a born soldier, a born leader of men. He was a wild, reckless fellow, soft spoken, and of dauntless courage and boundless ambition; he was staunchly loyal to his friends, and cared for them in every way.”
Roosevelt even evaluated himself. “I have been both astonished and pleased,” he wrote to Lodge, “at my own ability in the line of tactics. I thoroughly en-joy handling these men, and I get them on the jump so that they execute their movements at a gallop.”
Roosevelt had harbored one concern in gathering such a group of individuals. How would they tolerate the discipline that the Army would necessarily impose on them? In this matter, however, he described himself as “agreeably disappointed.” By and large, the men realized the difference between an army and a mob. But to keep them in such a frame of mind, the leaders—meaning himself—had to be strong. He and Wood quietly but firmly corrected infractions of protocol that would seem trivial in the more relaxed Army of later years. For example, a man would be corrected if he said, “Good evening, sir,” when saluting the colonel. The salute was sufficient in itself. On one occasion, a mess sergeant, in calling dinner, was corrected for referring to the officers as “you fellers.” All these small admonitions were taken in good part.
But Roosevelt himself still had to absorb some of the ways of the military hierarchy. One incident, which he chose not to describe to Lodge in his letters, involved his natural generosity, exuberance, and love of applause. One day, after finishing a drill with one of his units, he ordered the men to dismount and then shouted, “The men can go in and drink all the beer they want, which I will pay for.” This gesture elicited such a response that Roosevelt got carried away. He joined them for a couple of hours.
Nearly everyone in the camp thought well of Roosevelt’s boyish enthusiasm, but one who did not was Leonard Wood. That evening Wood sent for his lieutenant colonel and pointed out that, in the interests of discipline, officers did not drink with enlisted men. Roosevelt accepted the chiding seriously and left Wood’s tent. In a few seconds, however, his embarrassment overcame him. He returned to the tent, stood rigidly at attention, saluted, and made a stiff speech that ended, “Sir, I consider myself the damndest ass within ten miles of this camp! Good night, sir!”
Roosevelt’s enthusiasm for his military activities was admirable for a soldier, but in broader matters it beclouded his judgment. His obsession to see battle with the Rough Riders, for example, caused him to forget that the purpose of an army is to enforce the national will. In one letter, he exhorted Senator Lodge to do everything possible to prevent any successful negotiations between Washington and Madrid, even if such negotiations would grant the Americans everything—the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, and even Cuba—without a fight. He, Roosevelt, must defeat the Spanish in battle for the sake of the battle itself.
As is always the case when a unit prepares to break camp, Wood was involved in so many administrative matters that he was forced to turn over much of the training to Roosevelt, who relished the activity. He began by drilling the men on foot, which in itself is difficult enough. Then, when he was satisfied with his men’s precision, he began practicing maneuvers on horseback. The fact that many of the horses were not broken in caused very little problem; many of the Rough Riders were sufficiently strong and adept that no horse could remain unbroken. As for weapons, Wood had decided to rely on only the Krag carbine, which he had successfully obtained, and the revolver. To the disapproval of more formal Regular Army cavalry officers, the Rough Riders dispensed with the saber. They were, after all, expecting to do a great deal of their fighting on foot, with their mounts being held by horse holders in the rear.
Although Wood and Roosevelt had trained hard during the month of May 1898, they were still uncertain whether they would ever be employed in actual fighting. Their worries dissipated, however, at the end of the month, when a cablegram arrived at San Antonio, ordering the regiment to leave by train for Tampa, Florida, to join a force being assembled, presumably for an invasion of Cuba. Wood, on receiving the message, showed no emotion; he simply stood up, shook Roosevelt by the hand, and disclosed its contents. Roosevelt showed no such restraint; he whooped and hollered, and in no time the entire camp had the news. As the scene was described, “hats, blankets, tin cups, even saddles, skyward and made a bedlam of Colonel Wood’s decorous camp of subjugated wild men.”
They had every cause to be proud. Among all the units scheduled for inclusion in the expedition, the Rough Riders were the only volunteer regiment. The other two volunteer cavalry regiments were not yet ready to go. The personality and influence of Theodore Roosevelt may also have been a factor in its selection—one suspects that it may have been critical.
On Sunday, May 29, the first three of seven sections, under the direct command of Wood, left the camp at San Antonio for the railroad station. With all the confusion, including the failure of trains to show up, Wood’s contingent was forced to wait until midnight before pulling out. Roosevelt, in charge of the other four sections, arrived at the station about the time that Wood left; they were off by the next morning. Once under way, the sections spaced out. When one section stopped to allow the troopers to water and feed their horses, it would be the only one at that station.
Eventually, both officers and men were exhausted from the heat and lack of sleep. As usual the quartermaster seldom delivered enough water and for-age to any one station. Wood therefore faced a continual battle. According to a letter he wrote home, he was forced to take “armed possession” of one train not assigned to him, though he did not specify details. Still, there were bright aspects. All along the line, people were aware that the famed Rough Riders were coming through and were out beside the tracks to greet them. In New Orleans, the crowds were particularly enthusiastic, and the sight of the American flag on proud display gave Wood a lift to realize that the hurts of the Civil War thirty years previously had been largely healed.
After four grueling days of travel, the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry Regiment reached Tampa at midnight on June 3, only to find the camp in a state of confusion. Veterans of the campaign later recalled their arrival as one of the blackest moments in the history of the US Army. According to Roosevelt:
Tampa lay in the pine–covered sand–flats at the end of a one–track railroad, and everything connected with both military and railroad matters was in an almost inextricable tangle. There was no one to meet us or to tell us where we were to camp, and no one to issue us food for the first twenty–four hours; while the railroad people unloaded us wherever they pleased. . . . We had to buy the men food out of our own pockets, and to seize wagons in order to get our spare luggage taken to the camping ground which we at last found had been allotted to us.
Soon, however, Wood established a semblance of order. The area was soon cleaned up, and drill had been instituted immediately. Wood arranged the camp in the standard manner: a rectangle with the twelve troops lined along the long sides with the officers’ tents located at one end of the rectangle and the mess tents at the other. Everyone, especially the officers, worked hard and took no time for leisure, even though the town of Tampa was full of generals, members of the press, and fine ladies. Their industry was noticed, however, and attachés of various countries—English, German, Russian, French, and even Japanese—came out to visit them. Chapel services were held on the one Sunday the Rough Riders were at Tampa. The regiment was outstanding, even among the regulars.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Q & A: SKY PILOTS by Michael E. Shay

Sky Pilots: The Yankee Division Chaplains in World War I  by Michael E. Shay tells the story of nearly three dozen clergymen who volunteered as chaplains during the First World War. Assigned to the 26th “Yankee” Division, the first fully assembled division in France, they experienced all of the horrors of war, shared all of the privations of the common soldier, and earned the love and affection of their “boys.” Two died, several were gassed or wounded, and many of them were decorated by France and the United States for their heroism.

Why did you write about Army chaplains in World War I, and those from the Yankee Division in particular?

This is my fourth book about the 26th Division, a National Guard division, which was nicknamed the “Yankee Division.” When it was formed during the summer of 1917, its ranks were filled almost exclusively with men from New England, hence the name (my paternal grandfather was one of them). In doing research for my previous books, I kept coming across references to the names of individual chaplains and their close connection to the men they served, whether in combat, or in passing out cigarettes, or, sadly, in burial details. The references were always positive, and the letters home by the soldiers invariably told of their regimental chaplain’s bravery and compassion. Other than as a passing reference, the limitations of the previous manuscripts always prevented me from telling the whole story. However, that may well have been the best thing in the end, since these brave and humble men now get a book all to themselves.

Why is it important to tell the story of the Army chaplain in the First World War?

Chaplains have served with American armed forces from the time of the first militias in colonial days. However, up to World War I their role was only loosely defined. In fact, they were often referred to as “handy men,” responsible for recreation, or the post school, morale, or whatever the regimental commander wanted them to do. During World War I, the Army established a Chaplain School to give uniform instruction and physical training to chaplains. The first school was established at Fort Monroe, Virginia, but was soon transferred to Camp Zachary Taylor, Kentucky. Another school was established in France close to AEF Headquarters, and it was designed to polish the skills of the men already in France, or those who had completed their training in the States. Army chaplains were also given a uniform and the rank of 1st lieutenant. Some more experienced ones were promoted to captain, and one or two to major. The lessons learned during the war were instrumental in the establishment of the Army Chaplain Corps, with a full colonel in command. The Army Chaplain School is now located at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Army chaplains are now a fully integrated and respected part of the military, with both men and women in its ranks, serving all major faiths.

What did you learn about the service of these men during World War I?

Many chaplains were no older than the men they served (some fresh out of divinity school), yet they almost always referred to the soldiers as "my boys." Many of the older ones were used to prepared sermons and routine parish duties, but for all chaplains, the battlefield was their parish, and sermons were often extemporaneous and preached in the open air or deep in a dark underground bunker. They went everywhere with the doughboys, and shared the same hardships and terrors, which even they often found difficult to explain to themselves, yet they were there to lend an ear, offer comfort, and when necessary to see to a decent burial. I like to think of them as men of the cloth, but salt of the earth.

Did all American chaplains serve in the U. S. Army during World War I?

The short answer is, no. There were simply not enough Army chaplains to begin with. The goal was to have one chaplain for every 1,200 men, and beginning in March 1918, the Army Chaplain School was only graduating about 150 new chaplains per month. Given the rapid build-up of men to nearly 2,000,000 in France alone, it is easy to see that there was a large shortfall. All told, about 2,500 men served as Army chaplains during World War I. The Chief Chaplain for the AEF, Bishop Charles Brent, looked to the various service organizations to fill the gap. These included the YMCA, the Knights of Columbus, and the Jewish Welfare Board. He referred to these organizations as the “saving element.” These men had the added advantage of being able to make available to the soldiers amenities like cigarettes, candy, soap, and writing materials, free or at a small cost, through the auspices of the organizations that sponsored them. Many of these volunteers were already clergymen, and by the end of the war, some, but not all, would receive commissions as 1st lieutenants. Also, since there were not enough chaplains to serve all faiths, the chaplains exhibited a remarkable degree of cooperation and ecumenical spirit. For example, if a particular unit had a Protestant chaplain, but had a large number of Catholic men in its ranks, the Protestant chaplain saw to it that a Catholic chaplain was available to hear confessions and to offer Mass on Sunday. For many, this newfound spirit of ecumenism was carried home with them and played a prominent part in their later ministries. The situation with Jewish chaplains was altogether different. Whether due to a latent institutional bias or just plain shortsightedness, there were never enough slots allocated for them, and it was mostly through the efforts of “acting rabbis” among the rank and file, that the Jewish soldiers' needs were addressed. It was only late in the war that this need gained traction. The Yankee Division itself had only one Jewish chaplain, and he arrived at division headquarters just after the Armistice. 

Michael E. Shay is also the editor of A Civilian in Lawton's 1899 Philippine Campaign: The Letters of Robert D. Carter and the author of Revered Commander, Maligned General: The Life of Clarence Ransom Edwards, 1859-1931, both available from the University of Missouri Press.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Author Spotlight: J. Malcolm Garcia

In What Wars Leave Behind, journalist J. Malcolm Garcia reveals the stories of the people left behind in the war-ravaged countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Kosovo, Chad, and Syria. Garcia gives readers the sort of gritty detail learned from immersing himself in other cultures. He eats the food, drinks the tea, and endures the oppressive heat. These are the stories of how a middle-class guy from the Midwest with a social work degree learned to experience and embrace the cultures of Third World countries in conflict—and lived to tell the tale.

Q: You wrote that you were “more than a little worried” when you gave up your 14-year career in social work to become a reporter. What was the turning point that pushed you into journalism?
I worked at a social services agency for about 10 years. But then it lost its funding. By then I had been doing social work for about 14 years and was ready for a change. We had published a monthly newsletter that was more newspaper than newsletter in that we reported what was going on in the neighborhood. I loved it. When the agency closed, I decided to pursue journalism. 

Q: War zones are obviously not the safest areas, to say the least. What were the most memorable times in your travels when you felt concerned for your well-being?
During my first embed in Afghanistan I remember sitting on the plane, a C-130, and the soldiers all started saying goodbye to one another and me because they thought they could very well be killed by Taliban fighters. Needless to say we weren’t, but it was an odd feeling. Afghanistan, after the heady days of the first few years when Afghans loved us, always had a current of threat. You knew if you wandered by yourself you could be kidnapped. Westerners had prices on their head, $25,000 if I remember correctly. Their translators too. So on the one hand no one was shooting at us in Kabul, yet there was this invisible undercurrent of a threat, of a guy just walking up to you and shooting you or a car screeching to a stop and throwing you in.  

One time in Pakistan, I was in an area of Peshawar that was controlled by the Taliban. The driver took a wrong turn. I was dressed as a native. We were pulled aside by bearded men in black turbans, the kind the Taliban wear. Whether they were Taliban or not, I don’t know. I kept my mouth shut. The driver said I was sick and could not talk. But I was watched closely. The driver said we were visiting family and they let us leave. “You passed” he said, meaning I looked enough like a native. I must have.

Q: You describe journalism as helping to “keep the world real” for you. What is the harshest reality check you’ve come across in your reporting?
The hunger and general deprivation of people in all the countries I’ve visited, and then coming back to the US and confronting malls and coffee shops and the pounds of discarded food that fast food joints and restaurants throw away. The other reality check is that our inner cities are little different than the impoverished neighborhoods in Third World countries. And I sometimes feel comforted in a ghetto because the waste of the affluent neighborhoods I find so jarring.

Q: Your book does a great job of spotlighting the issues that wars leave behind. What programs have you found to be particularly effective in helping resolve these issues?
Support groups where people can talk about the trauma in their lives so they know they are not alone. These people don’t have post traumatic stress, they have ongoing traumatic stress. They feel shamed and weak. Talking makes them feel not so alone.

Q: What kind of impact do you hope this book has on your readers?
That it allows them to envision a world they may not have considered. That they see people are really all the same. They want security and safety for their families. The people affected by wars, including the soldiers, are too often collateral damage to the mindlessness of their leaders.

Q: Are you working on any new projects?
A story about deported American veterans—they were not citizens when they joined the army. They served honorably and, after their discharge, were deported. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Lisle A. Rose: In an Age of Multiple Truths

Farewell to Prosperity: Wealth, Identity, and Conflict in Postwar America by Lisle A. Rose is a provocative, in-depth study of the Liberal and Conservative forces that fought each other to shape American political culture and character during the nation’s most prosperous years. The work’s central theme is the bitter struggle to fashion post–World War II society between a historic Protestant Ethic that equated free-market economics and money-making with Godliness and a new, secular Liberal temperament that emerged from the twin ordeals of depression and world war to stress social justice and security. 

As the author explains here, Farewell to Prosperity is no partisan screed enlisting recent history to support one side or another. Although absurdity abounds, it knows no home, affecting Conservative and Liberal actors and thinkers alike

            The audacity of writing the history of your own time is self-evident. Like many such efforts, Farewell to Prosperity contains more than a slight element of memoir. I was a young schoolboy when World War II ended and with millions of others have lived through all the storms, dramas, excitements, triumphs, tragedies, and follies that have marked national life ever since. Age does bring a certain measure of detachment and tranquility--an appreciation of experience for its own sake that, hopefully, can transcend narrow partisanship. That such a perspective is badly needed today hardly merits mention.
            Liberalism and Conservatism, the two great movements that have lashed our postwar polity, have each in its own way overreached; neither has been able to bring a lasting measure of domestic peace and satisfaction to our always turbulent and ever-changing society. Why and how this has happened has preoccupied me for many decades and is the subject of the book.
            My intellectual debt is clearly traceable. One rainy Berkeley evening in 1962, I read Richard Hofstadter’s The Age of Reform in one sitting. In setting forth his theory of reform politics as a reaction to social displacement, Hofstadter grounded his story in a generous consideration not only of traditional sources of explanation--economics and politics--but also in the hitherto largely unexplored realms of sociology and literary criticism. His aim was to understand, not advocate. Hofstadter’s approach was, and remains, a heady mix, and it was taken up by a talented crew of acolytes including Marvin Meyers and Leo Marx. Tragically, their promising line of inquiry was soon steamrollered by a “New Left” school who returned to the ways of crude and unimaginative Marxist economic determinism overlain with a patina of equally crude social criticism based on the writings of Che Guevara and Herbert Marcuse. While such partisan advocacy scholarship (Conservatives have their own doctrinaire practitioners) may be personally and collectively comforting to those who pursue it, it has done little to advance a sophisticated understanding of our lives and times.
            We have reached the point where the received academic wisdom demands reconsiderations that will enable us to escape from the dead end of meaningful explanation. Now, as always, the central conflict in national life has been the struggle to define what this country is and means. With few interruptions, that conflict has been as fierce since 1945 as at any time in our past.
            For all its many faults and failures, the liberalism that has been in and out of power since 1933 has successfully advanced an agenda of mass economic well-being and social betterment through government action. The ways and means have often been abrasive and in the late sixties and early seventies shaded into an extremism that, coupled with new and divisive forms of cultural expression, brought the entire enterprise into disrepute.
            The conservative experience has been no less fascinating. Throughout American history, those more or less excluded from power have been adept at expressing their opposition in code words.  Modern conservatism has been no exception.  Liberalism’s steady empowerment in the early postwar years led to the virulent and irrational anti-communism of the fifties and sixties; its later excesses in pursuit of legitimate ends deflected conservative criticism into the realm of “states’ rights,” “family values,” and a renewed defense of religion-sanctioned “free market individualism” that had been the hallmark of conservative thought and practice throughout our national past.
            Since 1933 and particularly throughout the postwar era, the great themes underlying conservative thought and conversation have been those of dispossession and loss. Despite the evident decline of liberalism over the past forty years and the emergence of Reagan Republicanism, conservatives are united in the sense that the country is no longer theirs. This perception--both right and wrong--charges their policies and practices with a striking urgency. We need not mount a mournful epitaph for Dixie or defend heterosexual male supremacy to add a dash of pity to our cup of condemnation. Millions of Americans are hurting because reality has passed them by.
            I suspect many thinkers and scholars will dismiss such a view as un-progressive and wimpish hand-wringing. Caring about the losers is, after all, un-American, as Vince Lombardi and a host of college and professional coaches will tell you. But contemporary conservatism continues to clog the gears of national life. If we seek the wellsprings of its beliefs and practices, they can be found in the discoveries of Robert and Helen Merrill Lynd eighty and ninety years ago when they probed the social dynamics of one typical “Middletown.” The political culture of Muncie, Indiana, which the two sociologists uncovered during visits in 1925 and 1936 continues to resonate throughout Red State America, shaping its response to the host of issues confronting the country today; race relations, feminism, gay rights, immigration, national health care, and the like.
            But seeking out the dynamics of conservatism and its often venomous interplay with the liberal opposition does more than illuminate our current national paralysis and malaise. It rounds out the picture of what this nation is and was--and how the was has become the is. The search for answers to questions such as these constitutes the real meaning and challenge of history, which now, as ever, is practically preoccupied with the basic question: “What happened and why?”