The Spectacle Blog

Re: No Future? No Future?

By on 4.5.08 | 11:47AM

I did read Jeffrey Hart's piece, and what struck me about it was how he allowed himself to be so meanspirited. Note the subhead reads, "William F. Buckley's last gift to conservatism may have been his opposition to the Iraq War." That seems to read, "William F. Buckley's last gift to conservatism was a position I agree with." Was it, though? A gift to conservatism? A gift?

It's a good time to make the point that a good number of Mr. Buckley's eulogizers have remarked just how nice he was. But the compliment is leveled at a trait held at arms length. I can't guess what Mr. Hart is thinking when he writes:

But to have influence, direct influence of the kind Buckley wanted, he would have to associate to some extent with quite a few popular yahoos. I recall, at one of Buckley's Monday night dinners for National Review senior editors, a sort of salon, seeing Rush Limbaugh enter the room and squeeze his considerable bulk into one of Pat Buckley's fragile-looking 18th-century French chairs. Would he reduce this antique to splinters? What Pat would have done if Limbaugh collapsed the thing boggles the mind. Revolt against the masses? Limbaugh was the masses. To have influence, to be a player in practical politics, Buckley would have to deal with the likes of Limbaugh, a radio blowhard, a type that has proliferated in the conservative movement
But I think this line in the next paragraph (regarding Buckley's association also with liberals) is illuminating:
I think Buckley wanted to show them [the liberals] that the editors were not fools and show the younger editors that civility with liberals was desirable.

This omits a more important lesson. Civility IN GENERAL is desirable. Describing somebody who's been as helpful to the movement as this supposedly "fat" "blowhard" (who is currently no heavier than your average man of years). Why conservatives heap onto other conservatives in such a way, I don't understand.

Sure, Rush Limbaugh, who reaches drive-time listeners, appeals to a larger audience than the intellectual establishment was used to. His style is different than that of Buckley's. Namecalling is unnecessary, especially when Rush has given no offense.

Speaking of which, I haven't seen much namecalling among the "younger generation" of conservatives, as you put it. Ross Douthat, Reihan Salam, Jim Antle, Peter Suderman -- Certainly, no one I mention among this group is currently super-famous, but I doubt that when the time comes, they'll heap it on like this.

As for the momentary pall that's come over conservatism -- you're right, Christopher, it's curious that the older conservatives are gloomy. The ideas are still salient -- so who cares about political power? Us young folk got all the time in the world.

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