Buckleys death two weeks ago
generated the usual avalanche of glowing tributes and commentary. Every
major newspaper repeated the usual stale anecdotes of the suave and
sophisticated National Review founder and raconteur.
Newsweek featured Buckley on the magazines cover.
The day after Buckleys death the Washington Post
published four separate items on him: a front-page obituary, Henry
Allens appreciation in the Style section, an op-ed by
Mona Charen, and a newspaper editorial that credited him for turning a
movement that lacked intellectual respectability into an
influential conservative intellectual establishment.
According to legend, Buckley defined the modern
conservative movement. He served as the guiding force in consolidating
articulate conservative intellectuals with the launch of National
Review in the mid 1950s. In essence, he redefined the Flynn-Taft
isolationist Old Right the postNew Deal Right that
over the years morphed into a politically correct form of conservatism. The
gist of recently published commentary suggests that had Buckley not arrived
on the scene, the postNew Deal Right would be dominated by
bumbling, unsophisticated misfits and deranged kooks!
launch of National Review admittedly was a pivotal event for
providing an early outlet for the views of an eclectic group of conservative
writers. As J. David Hoeveler Jr. notes in American
Conservatism: An Encyclopedia, He brought a measure of
cohesiveness to a disparate group of dissenters from the liberalism that
dominated the American intellectual community. National
Review became an outlet for thoughtful conservative writers, such
as Mel Bradford, James Burnham, M. StantonJames J. Kilpatrick, Russell Kirk, Joseph Sobran, and
However, the amorphous and fluid intellectual trajectory of
National Review over the years its inconsistency on
civil rights and the immigration issue ultimately proved problematic
for the publication and the larger conservative movement.
As a political force that Buckley helped to forge, the
transformation of conservatism from maverick to establishment status
compromised principled positions on topics that by todays standards
are beyond taboo for polite society. Controversial or provocative
commentary, some of which defined the early contents of National
Review, would gradually disappear with the rise of the
publications celebrity status. Any sustained analysis of racial
differences, the impact of racial integration on American society, or the
overreach of civil-rights legislation is now rendered beyond the pale.
Over the course of his life, Buckley had reached
celebrity status by recasting conservatism in acceptable
terms to the arch-egalitarian Left. His ultimate legacy: making
conservatism chic. Buckleys embrace of the
neoconservatives, the Trotskyite Right, ensured that the
conservative movement would morph into its present-day
Social Democrat status.
Proof that Buckley attained acceptance by the
establishments ruling elite is the glowing tributes published in the
nations leading newspapers, notably the flattering front-page
obituaries in the New York Times and Washington
Post. These appreciations speak volumes about him and about the
fact that the deceased was ideologically not of the Right
a modern conservative perhaps but center of
Right in the traditional sense of the political spectrum. A
conservative by todays standards seems to
encompass anyone who is to the right of Che Guevara.
For all the sentimental back-slapping of Buckley by
conservatives, what exactly are the accomplishments of the conservative
movement in the past half-century? A smaller federal government? Fiscal
responsibility? The protection and advancement of liberty and freedom?
What are the lasting achievements of the conservative movement? An
alternative media? Stopping Americas cultural slide to the far Left?
The single most important beachhead for liberalism is the vice-like grip on
our cultural and social institutions through public education and the mass
media. Conservatives have punted to reverse what James Burnham once
referred to as the Suicide of the West.
It is precisely Chairman Bills
thumbprint on the conservative movement that led to
intellectual stagnation on a host of critical issues facing the West: mass
immigration, multiculturalism, ballooning of the welfare state, racial
preferences, and opposition to racial egalitarianism. If preserving
ones cultural and ethnic heritage isnt a worthy goal of the
conservative movement, what is? The tepid reaction from
conservative quarters to an exploding demographic shift one that is
transforming Americas dominant European roots into a Third World
culture is simply mind-boggling!
Marcus Epstein rightly points out on VDARE.com that the
prevailing structure of taboos has shifted considerably to the
Left. Buckley and the modern conservative movement are largely to blame
for not resisting this cultural climate, which has festered to the point where
men can lose their career for speaking too freely.
In the mid 1950s Richard Weaver once noted in
National Review, Most of us readily admit that this
nation owes both its independence and its happiness to the principle of
self-determination. That principle is now in danger of being suppressed by a blind
zeal for standardization and enforced conformity. To oppose that trend, we
do not have to become sectionalists. We need only grant the right of distinct
groups to exercise some liberty of choice in the ordering of their social and
cultural arrangements. If that liberty is denied, there will be no ground left
on which to assert any other liberty.
Weavers admonition that it was a mistake for
conservatives to drift just to the right of the Left as the country lurched
ever leftward culturally and politically was remarkably prescient. This is
precisely what has defined the conservative agenda over the
years. The legacy of American conservatives has been to
reassure liberals they arent really that conservative; and to prove
that they really are not bigots and racists they have no intention of
conserving our European heritage.
Thank you, Chairman Bill, for this heralded