The Unmaking of a Mayor

In 1965, William F. Buckley, Jr., ran for mayor of New York City. It was the perfect place for Buckley's brand of conservatism. New York has no foreign policy, so there was little room for his militaristic tendencies. Instead he aimed his lance at the city's dysfunctional bureaucracy, producing a platform that was at least 80 percent libertarian.

He was sure to lose, of course, but that allowed him to be creative -- and impolitic. Consider this exchange from his first press conference:

Q: Do you think you have any chance of winning?

WFB: No.

Q: How many votes do you expect to get, conservatively speaking?

WFB: Conservatively speaking, one.

That wasn't just a good line. At a time when some at National Review argued that the magazine should always support the most conservative electable candidate, the journal's editor himself was asking New Yorkers to vote for a man who knew very well that he was unelectable. That's a far cry from the National Review of today, a magazine more willing to settle for Mitt Romney than to cheer on a protest campaign.

Buckley received 13 percent of the vote in a three-way race. His campaign demonstrated, three years before it became obvious to everyone else, that a conservative could appeal to northern blue-collar Democrats. It also paved the way for other jape campaigns with a literary sensibility, by Norman Mailer in New York, Hunter Thompson in Aspen, even Jello Biafra in San Francisco. To my mind it was the highlight of Buckley's career.

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    Jello Biafra's campain had literary sensibility?

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    Great video on Thompson. I don't know how I missed the "Breakfast with Hunter" documentary.

  • Jesse Walker||

    Jello Biafra's campain had literary sensibility?

    Sure, in that Lydia Lunch/Kathy Acker punk-rock way.

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    reason sucks

  • picaro||

    McCain/Romney suck. Reason rocks.

  • ||

    picaro, stick to what you know best: drugs.

  • ||

    Send some my way, will you picaro?

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    Interesting, I wouldn't have linked Buckley to the populist-conservatism found among, for example, Long Island "white ethnic" white flight Reagan Democrats in the 80s.

  • ||

    Dude named "Bender" is accusing someone else of a substance abuse problem?

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    Leave it to joe to steer the conversation back on track. Damn liberal spoilsport.

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    Ok, joe. That's better. I take it back.

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    LOL. I saw that line while browsing his book, "The Unmaking of a Mayor", just yesterday.
    Another funny from that interview was, in paraphrase -

    Q. Mr. Buckley, What do you plan to do if you do win ?
    A. Call for a recount.

    Buckley was also gracious enough to include Norman Mailer's hilarious review of his performance in the debates in the book.

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    John Lindsay vs. William F. Buckley, Jr. Debates on issues informed by ideology. What crap do we get today? Lies, distortions, so's your maw, macaca, Bushitler, and other such vomit.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    At a time when some at National Review Reason Magazine argued that the magazine readers should always support the most conservative electable candidate most likely to induce divided government, the journal's editor Wine Commonsewer himself was asking New Yorkers Reasoners and Reasonoids to vote for a man who he knew very well that he was unelectable.

    I'll stop now.

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    Jesse, I suspect characteristically, has things backwards. That campaign was the high water mark of New York City politics.

    Lew Pringle

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    Buckley received 13 percent of the vote in a three-way race.

    So, did the losing candidate's supporters claim Buckley 'stole' votes that rightfully belonged to them?

  • Jesse Walker||

    Jesse, I suspect characteristically

    Lew, I suspect too, but it isn't one of my defining characteristics.

    That campaign was the high water mark of New York City politics.

    When New York City politics dies, I'll be sure to work that into the obituary.

  • Gene Berkman||

    Joe says "I wouldn't have linked Buckley to the populist-conservatism found among, for example, Long Island "white ethnic" white flight Reagan Democrats in the 80s."

    Buckley received a lot of support in his campaign for Mayor from Irish Democrats, who tend to be conservative on economic issues, and from Polish & other East Europeans who appreciated Buckley's opposition to the Soviet Union.

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    and from a certain subset of the intellectual elite. i think buckley's weakness among working class voters might have been in part due to their inability to understand a damn word he was saying. never say "flow" when you can say "disembogue."

  • Geotpf||

    Well, the time where "a conservative could appeal to northern blue-collar Democrats" is over.

    In a special election in New York state for a state senate seat, where the registration was 49R, 29D, 22I, the Democratic candidate won 52-48. This is the first time a Democrat has held that seat since 1880.

    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/2/26/222755/044/1019/464777

    The backlash to the Southern Strategy is now in full effect. The Northeast soon will be exclusively a Democratic controlled area. Republicans, incumbents or not, will be defeated unless they switch parties (had Lincoln Chafee switched parties, he would have kept his Senate seat in 06), or if they are popular and moderate enough, they might possibly stick around until they retire and are replaced by Democrats (for example, the Maine twins in the Senate will probably keep winning, but are guarateed to be replaced by Democrats once they retire).

    This will make the NE even more of a Democratic stronghold than the South is, because majority-black areas have remained Democratic, and some old time machine Democratic areas remain (such as Arkansas).

    #1 on the list to be defeated (or retire) has to be Chris Shays of Conneticut. #2 is John Sununu of New Hampshire.

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