During my first year of graduate school (1982–83), Louis Galambos congratulated me for having the courage to go into a dying field. Naïveté, not courage, had propelled me to leave my position as deputy director of income maintenance programs for the New York City Department of Social Services and study political history at The Johns Hopkins University. Although contact with the job market four years later would confirm my adviser’s warnings, at the time he issued this “heads up” I did wonder what Dr. Galambos had been smoking. After all, it seemed to me that politics, and particularly its bureaucratic incarnation, touched the lives of Americans more of ten and more forcefully than ever before. How could interest in this topic be declining? What’s more, by my third year in graduate school, I had mastered a rich body of literature that confirmed the centrality of politics.The Progressive synthesis, dating back to James Beard, Frederick Jackson Turner, and Vernon Parrington, was under fire but still compelled elegant work that had begun to focus less on Progressive presidents and more on the fate of liberalism as it engaged racism, sought to reconcile local preferences with national agendas, and grappled with Americans’ increasing distrust of the centrally directed programs that the New Deal and the Great Society spawned (Brinkley 1982, 1995; Chafe 1980; Gerstle 1989, 2001; McGirr 2001; Sugrue 1996).