Monday, March 03, 2008

Mark Steyn on William F. Buckley, Jr. on National Review Online

re: "...The 1950s are assumed, at least by children of the Sixties, to be a “conservative” era. But at home New Deal liberalism controlled all the levers of society and abroad the Communists had gobbled up half of Europe, neutered most of the rest, swiped China, were eyeing up other valuable real estate across the planet, and Washington’s foreign-policy establishment was inclined to accept this as a permanent feature of life to be “managed” rather than defeated. The Republican minority in Congress were isolationists or country-club liberals, and their presidential nominees were “moderates” like Dewey or non-partisans like Ike. There was virtually no serious intellectual energy in American conservatism. The notion that in the early 21st century more Americans would identify themselves as “conservatives” than as “liberals” would have struck the elites of 50 years ago as preposterous: a scenario unimaginable outside the more fanciful dystopian science fiction... [snip]... Then Bill Buckley showed up and was brilliantly effective. In the barren soil of the Fifties, he planted what became a mighty family tree that includes not just Barry Goldwater and then Ronald Reagan but millions of other Americans. I’ve been amazed in recent days by the number of e-mails I’ve received from readers retelling essentially the same story across the decades: Buckley came to their college in the Sixties, Seventies, Eighties, or Nineties, and the scales fell from their eyes. Or they were in the local library and found a stray copy of something called “National Review” that had somehow managed to penetrate the perimeter fence. Or they were flipping through the channels late at night and stumbled across this cool guy with a pencil effortlessly eviscerating some liberal panjandrum..."...

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