Skip to comments.Toasting the “Intellectual Godfather” of the Conservative Movement
Posted on 02/28/2018 11:38:33 AM PST by Kaslin
Its been exactly a decade since William F. Buckley, Jr. died. Yet, surveying the ideological landscape, it feels more like a century.
Watch an episode of his program Firing Line, and youll see what I mean. There, Buckley in his uniquely aristocratic way would debate guests on the issues of the day. Not try to shout each other down, or trot out a quick soundbite before three or four different people cross-talked over you, but actually debate.
That may sound like a recipe for boredom, and perhaps by the cage-match mentality prevailing today, it was. But were talking about a program that racked up more than 1,500 episodes over nearly 35 years. People were watching, listening, and engaging in debates of their own across the country.
Buckley, of course, was no mere host, but an intellect of the first order who preached undiluted conservatism. Author, publisher, commentator, he bucked the liberal order by revealing the emptiness of its utopian promises.
He got off to an early start, putting himself on the political map right out of college in 1951 with a bestseller called God and Man at Yale. Only a few years later, he founded National Review.
Its hard to overestimate the importance of National Reviewto the conservative movement. Great thinkers on the right, such as F.A. Hayek, Russell Kirk and James Burnham, were producing important books, but before Buckleys magazine hit newsstands in 1955, no periodical was unapologetically applying conservative principles to current affairs, especially in such an urbane and witty way.
Though liberals do a great deal of talking about hearing other points of view, it sometimes shocks them to learn that there are other points of view, he wrote Up From Liberalism. Another classic zinger: Liberals, it has been said, are generous with other peoples money, except when it comes to questions of national survival, when they prefer to be generous with other peoples freedom and security.
With good reason did his son Christopher describe his father as the intellectual godfather to the movement that gave us Ronald Reagan. Id be lost without National Review, the future president wrote to Buckley in 1962, two years before his famous A Time for Choosing speech for Barry Goldwater put him on the political map.
Buckley wassui generis: master of the spoken and written word; founder of institutions that outlive him; unheralded supporter of many individuals and organizations; political trendsetter; and a congenital optimist who led the way for so many to follow, while remaining a man of deep personal faith and belief.
Imagine a world without Buckleys presence for all those decades, and his continuing legacy. Not only no National Review, still Americas pre-eminent journal of sensible thought and analysis, but no institutions of the right, ranging from the Young Americas Foundation to The Philadelphia Society. None of the thousands of next-generation followers who have made their individual marks in myriad ways to promote freedom worldwide.
Ever the defender of what Russell Kirk called the permanent things, Buckley continually reminded us that real conservatism is based on tradition and the cumulative wisdom of those on whose shoulders we stand.
He was reluctant to provide a final definition of conservatism, but he offered himself as a definition, admitting he was dependent on human freedom, not as an end, but as a means -- to live my life an obedient man, but obedient to God, subservient to the wisdom of my ancestors; never to the authority of political truths arrived at yesterday at the voting booth.
What a legacy William F. Buckley has left for us to celebrate -- and emulate.
His interview with Jesse Jackson was classic. They couldn’t understand each other at all.
Only 10 years since his death? It seems like 30.
So much has changed in major parts of the American Culture.
The anonymous nature of the internet and later the far reach of smart phones were the main catylsts.
I always liked his debates with John Kenneth Galbraith. I think they enjoyed insulting each other more than debating.
That's not to leave out the other icons of the left. Timothy Leary, Woody Allen (May have been on Allen's show), Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, etc.
That is one of the reasons why 'liberal/progressives' tear down statues, invade the school systems, and rewrite history,
because anyone who studies history knows of the folly and fallacy of progressive/socialist politics and espoused economic utopia.
God’s of the Copybook Headings - Rudyard Kipling
We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.
This article is crap. Based on a false premise.
Buckley? A conservative?
(insert eye roll here)
The Buckley/Vidal arguments were great too.
So much so, they made a documentary over them.
Good movie. Must watch.
He’d be ashamed today.
William F Buckley,Jr. interviewing candidate Ronald Reagan
Buckley was but the father of modern Conservative Orthodoxy. The origin of the modern, corrupt Republican Party.
You know, the fools who accepted into their fold the Neocons.
Those who advocate Open Borders, Endless War and Free Trade.
Those who are drunk on the blood of the American Soldier and American worker.
The real father of American Conservatism is Russell Kirk.
Fox has become unwatchable as people on different sides of an issue scream at one another and shout over one another. Why they don’t have a cough-button at the moderator’s hand is unfathomable.
is it on youtube or somewhere? I’d love to see that.
Aren’t you in the wrong link, what does the article to do with FOX News?
We miss Buckley, Kirk, and the rest.
C’mon, get serious.
Wm Buckley was an important organizing figure in the post WWII conservative renaissance... and he loved to find a good $5 word for Firing Line... but I defy you to name a vital book or essay that he wrote. He wrote spy novels. And his contributions to NR in the 70s and 80s were meager.
He did surround himself with some great minds at NR and gave them a place to get published... at least until he helped wreck it by turning it over the loons that have made it the farce that it is today.
“The real father of American Conservatism is Russell Kirk.”
Kirk’s seminal The Conservative Mind was published before NR began, proving your point. And he was there at the beginning of National Review.
I didn’t start reading NR until the 70s... but it introduced me to some real conservative intellectuals who had come before or were still writing... James Burnham, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Stephen Tonsor, Mel Bradford, Robert Nisbet, Richard Weaver...
In the Fifties and the Sixties, Buckley really was a dissenter and a non-conformist. The American Establishment and the intellectual mainstream looked down on free market conservative ideas. Buckley brought those ideas into the mainstream. They weren't laughed at or dismissed any more (for a while, anyway).
If what resulted wasn't what you or I might want, that doesn't lessen the achievement. It does indicate how hard it is to be both the moralistic outsider and the Establishment insider, and how hard it is to keep the esprit de corps of an idealistic activist minority with the responsibilities of power and respectability.
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