Buckley’s Passing Should Serve as a Reminder for Conservatives
by Michele J. Samuelson
George Will once said that without the National Review, we wouldn’t have gotten Goldwater, and without Goldwater, Reagan. If you’ve been involved in the conservative movement for even just a short time, you’ve felt that influence whether aware of it or not.
William F. Buckley, Jr. was only 29 years old when he founded the National Review, in 1955. By that time he’d already written one of the first books to seriously critique the coming liberal takeover of our universities in “God and Man at Yale.” He helped found Young Americans for Freedom, out of which grew Young Conservatives of Texas and Young America’s Foundation, and a thriving young conservative movement.
Buckley wrote countless memoirs, fiction novels, and conservative tomes, and his magazine helped get intellectual conservatism in the hands of everyday Americans. It’s easy to forget that, before the National Review, conservatism was dying on the vine in the face of big government and socialist elites. It was his vision that gave us the intellectual tools necessary to found the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institute, the Club for Growth, Eagle Forum, Americans for Prosperity, and countless other think tanks and grassroots organizations that promote the conservative cause today. The National Review took the Reagan Revolution and gave it shape and focus like no other publication could have. Without William Buckley, we might never have gotten to the Brandenburg Gate, where President Reagan implored the Soviets to tear down the Berlin Wall.
When Buckley left the day-to-day operations of National Review, it was shortly after Ronald Reagan’s passing, and it would have been easy to assume that conservatism was dying without its leaders. But looking around as statesmen, grassroots leaders, and conservative thinkers pause to mourn him, we see the fruits of his labor. We have conservatives entrenched in the very battlefields where they are needed most. It would be foolish to assume that conservatism is dead. Buckley worked to ensure that it was not right up until his passing this week at age 82.
Understandably, conservatives are increasingly disheartened as our message gets lost in electoral cacophony. The process has hurt us, and it’s difficult to see our way past it. Our issues, however, and our beliefs survive despite all this. Perhaps it is time, as we remember William Buckley, to do as he once said about the National Review: “stand athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.”
Our fight is far from over, and it is critical that we not lose heart. Rather, we must, as Buckley did, work unceasingly for the cause of conservatism. Only we can stand athwart history now, and if we stand together we could turn back the tide of liberalism and socialism for good.