Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Buckley and the conservatives

Michael Uhlmann on Bill Buckley and the conservative movement.   

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Absolutely fantastic read. Thanks for sharing it. I especially liked the Hillside link (Buckley’s work is being archived).

I was first introduced to the National Review during high school. I challenged my teacher to a week presenting an alternate picture of US history. To her credit (an unabashed liberal), she agreed to let me teach my class. It was the mid-80s and Reagan was my president (politics were often discussed at the dinner table, but my father always played devil’s advocate - his politics were a mystery to me until later). In school, US history was a jaded review of the events shaping the US.

In my research, I stumbled upon National Review and my life took a turn. The style and format helped me take the rough-hewn timber of my teenage "thoughts" and create a house to operate from for years.

More than anything, I was intrigued by the competing forces within the conservative movement. In the page linked, the author summarizes:

In its early years especially (ca. 1955-60), National Review performed multiple functions at once: It created a forum in which conservative ideas were treated seriously; it acted as an information clearinghouse for conservative activists; and (not least) it created a magnetic field that gradually drew into its orbit an astonishing array of intellectual diversity. Contrary to the restrictive paradigms established by fashionable academic opinion, modern conservatism tends to defeat neat doctrinal definition. National Review understood and acted upon that fact from its inception. Then as now, five different kinds of libertarians warred with five different kinds of traditionalists, debating everything from theology and epistemology to whether Richard Nixon was or wasn’t a "true" conservative. However else they differed, they agreed that they were not liberals.

I think the "big tent" has sustained the conservative movement and, more importantly, draws considerable intellectual talent from all perspectives "not liberal." That point’s been made enough times - no need to go down that road.

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