Gathering Doubts: Culture and Politics (1920-1924)
At the beginning of the 1920's, with the League beaten and Harding elected, Republicanism stood triumphant at the pinnacle of a long climb back to power and the good graces of the people. Seemingly, all that remained was to maintain that power and the conservative creed that justified it. In this, James M. Beck could be expected to play a leading role. As Solicitor General of the United States from 1921 to 1925, he had a prominent place in the government. His articulateness and prestige assured him a ready audience; his close identification with the Republican brand of nationalism so strikingly endorsed in November, 1920, made him a logical spokesman for his party. A sympathetic environment seemed available in which he could develop, with lofty image and sweeping prose, the great theme of the individualistic American tradition returned to political dominance after the waywardness of the past decade.
Yet despite an ardent and voluble party loyalty, he chose instead to be a persistent critic of postwar American society. This surprising development resulted from a deep sense of personal disillusionment. He, too, had fought to make the world safe for democracy--constrained as his version of it was--and his disappointment over the society that emerged with peace was as poignant as that of the most downhearted Wilsonian. Seven years after the war, he sadly decided that the struggle had been, in terms of Wilson's