It is difficult for many to grasp the impact William F. Buckley had on the modern conservative movement and the political discourse of this country for the last 50 years.
Bill Buckley was the intellectual driving force that propelled Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan and then, Newt Gingrich. He gave many young conservatives and Republicans, like my father and his generation, the ability to stand up in a crowded room and say "yes, we are proud of what this country is and can be," and then took that emotion into elective politics at every level.
When he began his magazine, The National Review, in the mid 1950's, there was little conservative discourse in the halls of power or academia. Much of the Establishment viewed conservatives as lunatics, incapable of understanding the issues of the day or offering coherent solutions to them. Buckley changed all of that through persistence and a true belief in the power of freedom and individual initiative.
He was a writer of letters up to the time of his death, and his use of the English language was without peer. Buckley took on postwar liberalism and in a very short time, brought Conservative thought into practical application. Others can comment better on how it changed the course of human events.
Conservative principles brought this country back from the big government management model to the unlimited potential of the free market and roll back of the New Deal and Great Society. His uncompromising stands against totalitarian regimes and their appeasement led to an end to Communism. He defended Joe McCarthy when no one would, supported giving the Panama Canal to the Panamanians when the right thought him daft and threatened to take Gore Vidal to the parking lot at the 1968 convention.
Bill Buckley also became a writer of great spy novels and a chronicler of sailing, which he did with courage and grace. There was nothing he didn't do well. His sense of humour and loyalty to friends of all political stripes endured throughout his life.
He was above all, a true American, comfortable in his own class and not afraid to challenge the high priests of established conventional thought. As his son, Christopher said, "he died with his boots on," working on another column.
Like Reagan and Goldwater, there was no one like him but he maintain through it all a sense of humility and style that propels others to answer the call to action for years to come.
28 February 2008
Posted by Chris Healy at 13:45