Sutton's history of Skull and Bones says more about American conservatism's being a form of Progressivism than it does about the left-wing Progressivism of Theodore Roosevelt and his cousin Franklin. Everyone already knows that left-wing Progressives favor socialism. There is more confusion about American conservatism, which claims to favor traditional American values. There is, though, a socialist tradition in America that arches from Hamilton to the Whigs to the Progressives. The Whig ideology was necessarily couched in individualist rhetoric just as Hamilton claimed to favor states' rights in The Federalist Papers. In other words, Whig liberalism was baloney, just as today's Republican Party's claims of being for small government is baloney.
The Whigs didn't picture themselves as more conservative or more radical than the Democrats, only more in favor of public works, centralized control, the public good, central banking, and subsidies to business. Both American conservatism and American progressivism in their current forms are descended from the Whigs' and Progressives' ideologies, but there was no Federalist, Whig, or Republican conservatism until 1912. Since then, both American conservatism and American "liberalism" have been Progressive, and have had little regard for Jacksonian or Jeffersonian republicanism except in apologia. Warren G. Harding ran on a platform of normalcy, as did Calvin Coolidge. Normalcy or consolidation has been part of Republican Progressivism pattern ever since. Reagan claimed that "government is the problem," but he consolidated government. He did not reduce it. In order to attract Americans who continue to believe in 19th century liberalism, the Republican Party has continued to lie and claim that it favors small government.
Skull and Bones was present at the founding of both major political factions. Much later, the Kennedy administration appointed Skull and Bones members (McGeorge Bundy, William Bundy, and Averell Harriman, along with a range of cronies.** Kennedy had asked Skull and Bonesman Robert Lovett to join his cabinet, but Lovett refused, recommending the Bundys instead. ) As well, Skull and Bonesmen have dominated American conservatism: William F. Buckley, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush were members. There is little of Jefferson or Jackson in American conservatism, which is pro-bank, pro-banker, pro-big business, and pro-elite.
Before I had heard of Skull and Bones or knew of his membership in the Skull and Bones order, I had concluded that William Howard Taft was the founder of American conservatism; it turns out that his father, Alphonse Taft, was the founder of Skull and Bones, and William F. Buckley, who adapted Taft conservatism to the post-war era, was also a member. Recall that Buckley did his best to destroy Ayn Rand, in particular through a review of Atlas Shrugged by Whitaker Chambers.
Thesis: left-wing Progressivism (Roosevelt, Perkins, Rockefeller, Morgan),
Antithesis: conservative Progressivism (Taft, Buckley, Bush)
Synthesis: American oligarchy and crony capitalism