It is a strange thing that Southerners are for some reason being blamed of late for some undue attachment to the policies of Woodrow Wilson, when the South provided no less than two of the Senators of the six who opposed the declaration of war in 1917.  In an era when Southerners were keen to demonstrate their loyalty, and general servility to a pro-war executive was the rule all over the country, this seems to me to be a somewhat significant sign of Southern resistance rather than support.  Needless to say, there was little or no dissent from the Northeast.  It is also hardly a secret that the greatest proponents of the war were progressive Christians, not conservative and fundamentalist Christians, and these were typically concentrated more in the urban centers of the North.  Considerable resistance to the war and wartime policies of conscription emerged in the South, and “[w]hen war was finally declared in April 1917, some of the most vocal opponents were southern Democrats.”  Claude Kitchin of North Carolina is one counter-example of a Southern Democrat who continued in office after 1918–his constituents did not punish him for having opposed entry into the war.    

Vardaman’s later electoral defeat is taken as evidence of some Southern enthusiasm for Wilsonian fantasies, when it is unfortunately evidence of a much more dangerous tendency common to all Americans of punishing members of Congress who go against the executive.  Sen. Stone of Missouri died before the Armistice and the 1918 election, so we will never know if his consituents were going to vote him out.  Opponents of the war were relatively few and scattered all over the country (Lane from Oregon, Gronna from North Dakota, Norris from Nebraska, LaFollette from Wisconsin), yet they plainly represented the overwhelming majority of the population in 1917.  Yet, the fact remains that in 1918 some Democratic politicians who quite correctly and wisely voted against entry into the war were defeated, in part because they had gone against the President of their party and had been seen to side with his predominantly Republican opponents.  However, war hysteria managed to sink the careers of some Republican politicians in other parts of the country as well, including the well-known Jeannete Rankin of Montana.

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