Today marks the 10 year anniversary of the death of William F. Buckley, Jr. On this anniversary, there is a great piece by Rick Brookhiser in National Review about Buckley, the conservative movement, and Trump.
Looking back, it's easy to lionize your heroes and to overlook their faults, but in many ways, WFB was truly a genius. His television show Firing Line wasn't a collection of pundits yelling soundbites at each other, but a one on one debate between Bill and someone of an opposing viewpoint. He actually let the left bring their best arguments and their best debaters onto his show and give them an audience they otherwise wouldn't have gotten. His motives weren't altruistic because he truly wanted his ideas to win, but he created a level playing field where serious ideas could be discussed seriously.
Brookhiser also correctly diagnoses the problems with the current conservative movement. Many conservative commentators have thrown aside their principles in order to support someone who "wins" and "fights". How, after three (or seven) more years of a Trump presidency, can we take them seriously again? Lord Acton's quote about power corrupting is typically interpreted as the person in power being corrupted by it. But the original intention was to describe the willingness of some to bend their beliefs to gain favor of one in power.
One of the great strengths of the conservative movement since its beginning is the willingness to challenge its own dogma. There have been numerous arguments between conservatives, neo-cons, paleo-cons, libertarians, Buckleyite conservitives, etc, that have clarified positions and made the intellectual underpinnings of the movement stronger. But the Trump era has polarized the Right in almost the way the right and left have been polarized in the Bush 43 and Obama eras. Trump supporters echo their icon and hurl epithets and demean those who dare to, not just criticize, but question anything he says.
What's mainly forgotten in the modern age is that politics is about persuasion. Buckley was not without his faults, but he understood this basic fact and put in the work to persuade people that his ideas were right. We could use more like him today.
Requiescat in pace.
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Monday, February 26, 2018
Friday, February 23, 2018
Thursday, February 22, 2018
Notes & Asides feature from National Review. It's a reminder of the zest for life that Bill Buckley had and how, once upon a time, there could be humor and camaraderie between those of differing political ideologies.
Monday, February 19, 2018
Monday, February 12, 2018
Wednesday, February 7, 2018
I finally tracked down a copy of Controlled Burn, his collection of short stories. Every story in this collection is great. He portrays characters at the fringes of society - convicts, ex-convicts, and people who work in cash only businesses because they're hiding from their pasts. His spare, muscular prose is engaging. And yet, like in stories like "Tigers", his language is poetic.
My favorite stories are probably "Tigers", "The Copper Kings", and "Vigilance".
If you're a fan of good writing, you should track this collection down.