Today is one of the most significant days in the history of American conservatism.
As I’m sure most of you have learned, National Review founder William F. Buckley, Jr. died earlier today at his home in Stamford, Connecticut.
Those of us who with access to the Internet have at our fingertips a plethora of sources for conservative opinion. But, back in 1955, before Buckley, a few months shy of his thirtieth birthday, founded National Review, there was no such source.
There, he brought together numerous conservative thinkers, representing a broad range of viewpoints, demonstrating the intellectual diversity of the conservative movement. He was one of the first to champion Ronald Reagan. The two were close friends and the Gipper regularly read Buckley’s biweekly magazine.
I have subscribed to National Review on and off since my freshman year in college. I met Buckley only once, at a fundraiser for the magazine held in Los Angels in 2005. He was cordial, but due to the press of the crowd — and the presence of some of his California friends — I did not have much time to engage this intellectual.
When I was friendly with Marvin Liebman in the mid-1990s, he remembered his friend fondly, noting how their friendship did not change when Liebman came out as gay to Buckley.
Others who knew Buckley who well have written more thoughtful tributes than I ever could. Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, the 2000 Democratic nominee for Vice President calls him a Remarkable Man. The magazine celebrates its founder here while offering a plethora of tributes on its home page.
In a review of a collection of Buckley’s speeches, Let Us Talk of Many Things, Charles Kesler reflects on Buckley’s legacy in The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine of opinion founded forty years after Buckley’s. The very existence of the Weekly Standard being a tribute to Buckley, another periodical standing up for freedom and against collectivism. It may well not exist had its founders not had the example of the success of the National Review as inspiration.
As one who, through this blog, has gained some recognition as a conservative writer, I realize how indebted I, as are all conservatives who manage to make public our views, am to Buckley. For, 53 years ago, he got the ball rolling in providing the first major national forum for conservative opinion.
The other magazines, radio programs, TV shows and now web-pages and blogs followed in his footsteps. While we are saddened by this man’s passing, we are grateful for the example he provided and the inspiration he offered. Bill Buckley was in man ways the godfather of conservative punditry. The lonely voice decrying the advancing collective menace in 1955 has become a multitude in 2008.
Rest in Peace, William F. Buckley, Jr. Your accomplishments will long outlive you.
Today, those of us conservatives have found a forum for our political views recall that conservative pioneer who founded the first such forum.