REFLECTIONS IN A BLEARY EYE: Where’s Buckley’s Legacy Now?
Bill Buckley changed my life.
It was primarily he and his publication, National Review, that fed my mind in the early 1980s and convinced me I was a conservative, not the liberal I once thought myself. My socio-political views – in truth never seriously pondered previously – had been undergoing a change since my Navy days in the early-to-mid ’70s. Four years of Jimmy Carter hastened the transformation. But it was Buckley’s passion and brilliance that sold me unequivocally on conservatism. I continued subscribing to NR into the ’90s, a few years after Buckley had retired as its editor-in-chief. Eventually, I let my subscription go for three reasons: 1) a year’s subscription was getting awfully expensive, 2) the editorial direction seemed to be changing in ways I didn’t quite like (though I couldn’t at the time put my finger on what troubled me about it), and 3) other publications to which I subscribed – The American Spectator and Human Events, among them – seemed to be carrying the conservative banner forward with greater acuity … and courage. (Ironically, it was the young Buckley’s inability to purchase Human Events that led him to found National Review.)
Every now and then, since, I’ve picked up a newsstand copy of NR, and I’ve sometimes thought of re-subscribing, but …
While I’ve always liked Rich Lowry, the current editor and a Buckley protégé, he has indeed changed the perspective of the magazine – and not for the better.
What’s wrong with NR today? Erick Erickson of Red State, a Human Events sister publication, hits the nail on the head in one of the finest pieces I’ve read from him. Read his article, “The Hungry and the Well Fed,” for yourself.
Bill Buckley was for me and so many others the face of intelligent conservatism.
The apparent abandonment of his legacy, especially by those closest to him, goes a long way toward explaining conservatism’s current reputation as the ideology of “stupid.”
The problem, of course, is that conservatism is far from stupid. (Nor is it, according to conservative writer-philosopher Russell Kirk, who helped shaped Buckley’s thinking and later wrote for NR, an “ideology.”) The stupidity lies instead with the philosophically challenged Republican Party and its obsession with winning elections at all costs.
Sorry, gang, but the data is in: Republicans win elections when they run on conservative principles. They lose elections when they try to be all things to all people (in other words, when they try to be Democrats). And they lose the public trust when they wangle their way into office as conservatives, then toss conservative principles out the door.
I really don’t care if Republicans win. I want conservatism to win. That’s the only political philosophy that has a hope in hell of guaranteeing our continued freedoms.
Bill, you are sorely missed!
This post was tagged under: National Politics