No one individual personified the conservative movement more than William F. Buckley Jr. – not even Rush Limbaugh, not even Ronald Reagan.
With his passing, it’s time for conservatives to re-evaluate their movement.
Has it, too, died?
I mean no disrespect to Bill Buckley. While I didn’t know him as a friend, I respected and admired him all my life.
I remember fondly the days when he ran for mayor of New York on the “bomb China” platform. He lost. But he had fun doing it, and so did the city of New York.
I also recall the days, not so long ago, when his brother, Jim, ran successfully for a U.S. Senate seat in New York.
And I’ll never forget the thrill of getting a personal letter from Bill Buckley about an article I wrote for the National Review about the myths surrounding the “Hollywood Blacklist.”
But Bill Buckley is gone. And so, in my opinion, is the conservative movement.
Do you want to know what I mean?
Can you imagine Bill Buckley being elected as senator of New York today?
Can you imagine a genuine conservative icon running for mayor of New York and being treated respectfully?
The country has lurched left since those days. It has catapulted left. It has moved left like it was riding atop an intercontinental ballistic missile.
And that proves the conservative movement is no longer up to the challenges we face in America in the 21st century. Even if the country were open to the conservative agenda, it’s not a strong enough agenda to save it.
As I have written many times before, conservatism is a defensive movement. It seeks only to conserve values and principles from the present, while the political and cultural establishments push an offensive agenda of change, change, change.
We’re in the midst of a social revolution in America, and conservatism is not up to the task of reversing it.
Let me give you a few ways this revolution manifests itself:
It’s just a matter of time, really, before same-sex marriage is a reality. Not only would the idea have been preposterous to 99 percent of Americans 20 years ago, it would have been literally unthinkable – even for those promoting it today!
It’s just a matter of time, really, before socialized medicine is a reality in America. Soon one-seventh of the country’s gross domestic product will be controlled by the federal government – and, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, that figure will rise to one-fifth or $4 trillion in a few years. Just to put this in perspective, the total federal budget today is significantly less than $4 trillion.
It’s just a matter of time, really, before America loses its pre-eminent status as the world’s lone superpower – brought low by its own social decadence, disrespect for the laws of the universe and suicidal economic policies.
I could make this list considerably longer, but let’s just leave it there for the sake of simplicity and comprehension.
How is conservatism going to address those challenges?
William F. Buckley Jr. and President Ronald Reagan
Only a slightly more, pardon the expression, radical movement could possibly have a chance. Only a movement that does more than try to hold on to turf could possibly have a chance. Only a movement that fights on offense could possibly have a chance.
I’m glad we all got to know Bill Buckley. I’m glad I got to live through the pinnacle of the conservative movement – the presidency of Ronald Reagan. I’m glad there are so many fine conservative minds still around.
But it’s time to start using those minds to redefine and re-energize the movement, not only to preserve freedom, morality and justice, but to expand them for the sake of our children and grandchildren.