By Eric Dubrow
Elm Staff Writer
Professor of History Richard Striner, although primarily an expert in the 19th and 20th century American History, is also an expert in many other fields. In his newest book, Lincoln’s Way: How Six Great Presidents Created American Power, he blends political, presidential, economic, ideological, and cultural history to provide a compelling and current case for the virtues of nonpartisanship and big government.
The book may be seen as a continuation and expansion of his previous work, Father Abraham: Lincoln’s Relentless Struggle to End Slavery. “Father Abraham is entirely devoted to Lincoln’s statecraft.
“My new one, Lincoln’s Way, is devoted to much more than that. It shows you how six great presidents, including Lincoln, created American power, but the succession being Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, [Harry] Truman, [Dwight] Eisenhower, [John F.] Kennedy,” said Striner.
Striner described Lincoln’s Way as a “trade book,” meaning that its intended audience is the general public, though it aims at an academic audience as well.
“I’ve done that very deliberately,” said Striner. “Just as in my classroom teaching, I try to make things clear and dynamic and teach to the whole class. I try to write in a way that reaches the broadest possible audience in the clearest possible manner.”
The origins of Lincoln’s Way are rooted not only in Striner’s fascination with Lincoln, but also in his own political beliefs. Striner described himself as “a maverick independent.”
“In the course of my lifetime I’ve often felt deep ambivalence about the Right Wing and Left Wing doctrines that were in play,” said Striner.
Eventually, Striner came to the realization that while the politics he is looking for do not exist in the present, there was a period in American history when they did.
“I argue that Lincoln’s way, as I call it, is a statecraft legacy that involved two things: a convergence of wisdom from left and right. You salvage the wisdom and discard the folly, and then use it powerfully through statecraft at the federal level. One could call this a big government book,” said Striner.
Lincoln’s Legacy, according to Striner, was passed down through the Republican party to Theodore Roosevelt, a passionate supporter of Lincoln’s politics. This notion of centrism crossed party lines to influence Roosevelt’s fifth cousin, Franklin Roosevelt, which in turn was passed down to Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy.
“I argue that there is this coherent leadership legacy. Under this legacy the United States became a global superpower, and without the legacy, the United States would not have become a global superpower,” said Striner.
Striner sees his work as a defiant and timely opposition to the criticisms of extensive government involvement that have occurred since the nation’s founding, and have been gaining much traction recently with the meteoric rise of the Tea Party movement.
In terms of promotion, the publishers of Lincoln’s Way, Rowman and Littlefield, have brought the book to the attention of the history book club and the military book club. Striner hopes to receive more endorsements and positive reviews. The book is set to come out on Sept 16, 2010.