The passing of the GodfatherWilliam Frank Buckley Jr. passed away yesterday, and with him passed an era into history. People rightly called him influential, and I have always called him one of my great heroes-Buckley was a true believer. In an age when many so-called conservatives are attempting to label those of us who were opposed to the Iraq War as not conservative, no one would or could apply that label to Bill Buckley-they would not dare try.
Buckley never held elective office (though he did once run for Mayor of New York), but his words and the power of his tongue did more to influence national policy and the fight against totalitarianism than any American politician in the last 50 years. He had a greater grasp of policy without having held office than most so-called leaders have in a lifetime of service-and he had an unflinching belief in the hope of the American spirit and in the superiority of the American way of life.
I love to write and talk, and I enjoy politics. I like to fancy that people might actually read what I say-but I can't ever be like Buckley. There are plenty of voices on the Right today in print and on the air, but none of these-least of all me-have the intellectual abilities or the practical grit of the Great One. Conservatives of today love to look to Ronald Reagan for inspiration, but how easily we forget that Reagan readily admitted what a huge influence William F. Buckley was on him. Buckley was truly the Godfather of the modern political conservative movement, and without him we collectively would not be the force that we are today. Had Buckley not come on the scene in the 1950's promoting ideas in print and in speech that were then thought of as radical, conservatism as we know it would be a movement on the fringes of American political life. William F. Buckley gave conservatives a voice when others would not hear us, and gave our movement respectability when the so-called mainstream ignored us.
To read Buckley's many books (most of which I have read) is to return to a time when the conservative movement was fresh and filled with new ideas and a world of possibilities and hope. In 2008, conservatives appear ready to enter the political wilderness because we have lost our way. We don't have to stay there, however-the map to the promised land can be found by revisiting the works and the philosophy of the man who made our movement into a political force in the first place.
No poor screed that I might write could ever do justice to the Godfather, so I will let some of my favorite William F. Buckley quotes do the talking:
The Godfather of modern conservatism
"Though liberals do a great deal of talking about hearing other points of view, it sometimes shocks them to learn that there are other points of view."
"I will not cede more power to the state. I will not willingly cede more power to anyone, not to the state, not to General Motors, not to the CIO. I will hoard my power like a miser, resisting every effort to drain it away from me. I will then use my power, as I see fit. I mean to live my life an obedient man, but obedient to God, subservient to the wisdom of my ancestors; never to the authority of political truths arrived at yesterday at the voting booth. That is a program of sorts, is it not? It is certainly program enough to keep conservatives busy, and liberals at bay. And the nation free."
"I am, I fully grant, a phenomenon, but not because of any speed in composition. I asked myself the other day, 'Who else, on so many issues, has been so right so much of the time?' I couldn't think of anyone."
"The best defense against usurpatory government is an assertive citizenry."
"Government can't do anything for you except in proportion as it can do something to you."
Eternal Rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual Light shine upon him. May he rest in peace, Amen. May his soul and the souls of all the Faithful Departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.