News & Criticism

William F. Buckley, RIP

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William F. Buckley Jr., who founded National Review and did more than any other intellectual to create a conservative alliance between traditionalists and libertarians (an achievement that seems more impressive with each passing day), died this morning at the age of 82. I think my first introduction to Buckley was through David Frye's impersonation of him on I Am the President, so for me he was part of a pantheon of important political figures with distinctive voices from early on. I vividly remember watching a 60 Minutes interview with Buckley in the 1970s and being struck by how much he seemed to relish intellectual combat while remaining calm, polite, and self-assured, traits that also came through in his long-running PBS talk show Firing Line. For left-liberals, I realized, he was a house-broken conservative, witty, learned, and cordial even while espousing horrifying opinions. Although many of today's most conspicuous conservatives eschew that role, Buckley's dignified, thoughtful approach earned the conservative movement mainstream credibility and may even have persuaded a few people, instead of simply stirring up the mob.

In the early 1990s I worked for Buckley at National Review, although by that time he was not much involved in the day-to-day running of the magazine. He would see us at the editorial meetings every two weeks and treat us to lunch at a neighborhood Italian restaurant he favored. In conversation he was always sharp but gentlemanly. At one of those post-meeting meals I remarked that there was something to be said for the Articles of Confederation. "Yes," Buckley replied with a sly smile, taking a slug of red wine, "but not much." This formulation, which allowed for continued argument but also let me drop the subject without embarrassment, was of a piece with his confident but laid-back intellectual style.

As for substance, Buckley often called himself a libertarian; the subtitle of Happy Days Were Here Again, his 1993 collection of columns and articles, was "Reflections of a Libertarian Journalist." Buckley represented the classical liberal strain of modern American conservatism often enough that his endorsement of statist schemes such as "national service" (or, more recently, tobacco prohibition) caused real dismay. He especially endeared himself to libertarians with his courageous and persistent criticism of the war on drugs, a stance that continues to distinguish National Review from other conservative organs. Although Buckley's support for repealing drug prohibition grew more out of pragmatic concerns than a principled commitment to individual freedom, his prolific writings usually reflected skepticism of government intervention. In recent years this skepticism drove him to question another war popular with conservatives, one that could prove to be as long-lived as the war on drugs, if John McCain has anything to say about it. Buckley, in short, admirably combined an ability to fuse the disparate elements of the conservative coalition with a willingness to break them apart when he thought the stakes were high enough.

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  1. Wow…this makes me wish I were older and had seen the old man in his prime.

  2. “He has(d) the guts to tell the truth.”
    Wouldn’t it have been fun if he had won the NYC mayoralty election? Of course, that was back before the “libertarian purge” from the conservative movement. Disagreed with him on a lot of things but this libertarian will miss him and the class he brought to matters that is sadly lacking in the “crocidilian” Coulters of today.

  3. His opposition to the WOD always struck me as pretty gutsy. Considering Reagan loved it so much. Buckley “went there” when he advocated doing away with it.

  4. RIP.

  5. Did he ever renounce what he wrote about “the black race” during the Civil Rights era?

  6. Good point by DR. My memory is when Buckley was on Nightline to argue with a blind guy who sailed some distance alone. His point was that you needed to see to be a real sailor. Buckley said he wasn’t sure what to call what he accomplished, “But it wasn’t sailing.”

  7. I remember buying a beat-to-shit copy of Up from Liberalism in a book store in Chicago maybe 10 years ago, and it was a major influence on my already small government-leaning views. I was also surprised that such a major conservative could be such a great writer and funny, to boot. His own views were spotty when it came to all kinds of freedom, but he was vindicated many times before the end of his life.

  8. People often forget WFB2 was convinced that MLK
    was a Communist and that he considered the Civil Rights Act a threat to the Republic. Even after Goldwater and Reagan came around on civil rights, WFB2 still blathered on about
    “miscegenation” and all the rest.

  9. Did he ever renounce what he wrote about “the black race” during the Civil Rights era?

    Who cares? Has Robert Byrd? Do you have concerns with anything he’s said since the 60s? Or was that it?

  10. Not really, all I care about is his opposition to the war on drugs and the war in Iraq, some issues that are non academic in nature.

  11. Yes, mike, Robert Byrd has done so. Often, publically, in detail, and to the best of my knowledge, with genuine contrition.

    Which, really, is the decent thing to do.

  12. And MLK was a commited socialist, will people please stop diefying MLK, he shat like the rest of us…

  13. Over at Rockwell they’re noting that Buckley himself chose to use the occasion of Murray Rothbard’s obituary to piss all over Rothbard. That makes me wonder whether I should show Buckley’s death the same kind of respect he showed that of a former colleague.

  14. As for substance, Buckley often called himself a libertarian…

    The kind of libertarian who favored forcibly tattooing HIV+ citizens.

    The libertarian tent gets bigger all the time, which only points up its scarcity of tenants.

  15. I disagree, mike, with a great deal of what he’s said since the 1960s.

    But considering a good idea to back the Contras, or to eliminate this or that government program, isn’t in the same ballpark as declaring black people to be “the inferior race.”

  16. Yes, well, errr, ahhh, don’t you see, don’t you think your missing the point which is that you’re completely misguided?

    Goodnight funny man.

  17. I wonder what he thought about the Frankenstein monster he helped create. If he thought about it at all.

  18. Buckley’s career is so long and varied and unusual that anyone can cherry-pick through and find things to denounce him for, but that’s missing a key point. Libertarians should revere him for making the anti-government case so persuasively for so long to so many millions of people through his writings and his journalistic and political acolytes. Given this massive achievement, all the griping is trivial.

  19. RIP. That’s bad news.

    Far more familiar with his son’s output but he was by all accounts an interesting chap. And his wife was hot in her prime.

  20. Me, I don’t like him;

    Bill Buckley wanted to fight communism, and was willing to sacrifice anything that he thought might get in the way of that, including freedom.

    The man supported conscription for God’s sake! He might have paid lip-service to believing in liberty, but his consistent support for a massive security apparatus headquartered in DC, even after the collapse of Communism, kind of put lie to them.

    So I am not sorry to see him leave the world’s stage.

  21. More than anyone else, Buckley got me here.

  22. All comfort to his family and friends.

    His “Up From Liberalism” was one of the books that turned me away from welfare-state left and toward libertarianism.

    At one time, he was the best-known intellectual challenger to the liberal/left.

    Jacob, thanks very much for your piece. It’s excellent.

  23. — speaking of Frankenstein monsters.

  24. I will toast his passing later today. With the good stuff. Public discourse is diminished by his death.

  25. So who’s gonna be the first person to say that, based on this or that idiocy published by THE NATIONAL REVIEW, Buckley’s gotta be spinning in his grave?

  26. I should have put that “I will toast his accomplishments”.

  27. RIP. That’s bad news.

    Far more familiar with his son’s output but he was by all accounts an interesting chap. And his wife was hot in her prime.

    I agree. I have to imagine that his granddaughter (Christopher’s daughter, Caitlin) is a knockout.

  28. Chris,
    Not sure if you’ve noticed, but his acolytes have largely abandoned his anti-government beliefs. Look at the his old magazine, whose support for Paul was essentially limited to Derb. The biggest surviving part of his legacy is, sadly, support for the military industrial complex, not small government.

  29. Buckley was openly opposed to the Iraq War. There’s a great bit about Norman Podhoretz calling him a defeatist or appeaser or some such thing.

  30. Repeating my post from the other thread:

    From several years of reading National Review in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I got the distinct impression that Mr. Buckley was considered the doddering uncle by the new guard at National Review, always respected for the pedigree of the magazine but misunderstood by people who didn’t share his values.

    Today’s National Review is a far cry from the one that advocated drug legalization in 1990, and light years from the one created by Buckley in 1955.

    RIP, Mr. Buckley.

  31. RIP. Obviosuly I had disagreements, but he was an articulate, intellectual conservative and we’re is very short supply of those these days.

  32. RIP. I liked the guy.

  33. I think any overview of Buckley’s career needs to include the good work he did making anti-semitism unwelcome in the conservative movement.

  34. Anyone here ever read any of his novels?

  35. That’s a better picture than the one at MSNBC where he looks like The Donald without the Botox.

    Somewhere in my vast archives is a photo of a young TWC (wearing a hideous plaid sport coat and a tie the color of Homer Simpson) shaking hands with Buckley. It was snapped by Larry Samuels at the Huntington Sheraton Hotel in Pasadena back in the late Cretaceous.

    Godspeed.

  36. “I am, I fully grant, a phenomenon, but not because of any speed in composition,” he wrote in The New York Times Book Review in 1986. “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.”

    R.I.P.

  37. I was a huge WFB, Jr. fan when I was a proto-wonk. I cut my political teeth reading his columns in the old Long Island Press, and watching him on Firing Line and The Advocates. (No surprise to anyone, L’il Kevrob was a H.S. debater.)

    While I said adios to Republicanism and conservatism the morning after the 1976 general election, I continued to appreciate Buckley’s style and wit for years after. WFB introduced me to two of my favorite libertarian Franks – Chodorov and Meyer – as well as to Mencken. I’d give him props for that, alone.

    Long before the `net, post-Fairness Doctrine talk radio and cable news, National Review was, while not a libertarian outlet, one of the few places one would encounter classical liberal thought. I always thought that the logical d?nouement of Meyer’s fusionism, once the USSR collapsed, would have been for Buckley et al to dissolve their Cold War alliance with national security statism and emerge as full-fledged libertarians. WFB did this in bits and pieces, as when he finally supported a volunteer military and the end of the WoSD. The NR crowd could never bring themselves to take the plunge, especially since it always included a clutch of cultural conservatives – ultramontanists, states-righters and religious cons of the Falwell/Robertson stripe. Had The International Jihadi Conspiracy not arisen to replace the Comintern as Conservative Enemy #1, one wonders what, if anything, the modern conservative movement would be using to patch together its disparate threads.

    Kevin

  38. With friends like John Kenneth Galbrith(a horse’s ass if there ever was one) and the editor at the NY Times who died about a year ago, and Dan Rather; it is more accurate to describe Buckley as an elitist then a conservative.

  39. The libertarian tent gets bigger all the time, which only points up its scarcity of tenants.

    When you have guys like Kos using the term and people at Reason implying that Goober Schwarzzengroper might be a libertarian it does sort of dilute the message a bit.

    Course, compared to either of the aforementioned bozos, WFB looks positively card-carrying.

  40. Isnt that a picture of “The Joker” from the batman movie?

    My favorite Buckley moment was when he let Ginsburg read his poetry, left a moment of silence when he was done, and then calmly said, “Rubbish.”

    That or calling Vidal a fag on TV. Dude had a real instinct for flames

  41. Anyone here ever read any of his novels?

    I read Nuremberg which was one of his later novels. I remember thinking that he should stick to politics and language.

    I’m not one for all that afterlife stuff, but I think, on average, he lived a good life and did more good than harm.

  42. kevrob,

    Great to see you. Seems like we haven’t for a while.

  43. No surprise to anyone, L’il Kevrob was a H.S. debater

    As was Mrs TWC, who also taught argumentation and debate at the college level for a while.

    You guys think YOUR Old Lady is tough in an argument?

  44. I went to hear him speak at my law school about a dozen years ago. Pretty amazing — when people in the audience asked questions, he really seemed to pause and ponder what they had said and to respond with his honest thoughts.

    One thing he said that watered the then-tiny libertarian seedling in my soul: Nothing magical happens to tax dollars if they pass through Washington first on their way back to the states.

  45. I used to really like firing line. New shows of that sort of debating depth just aren’t around anymore.

  46. Fair winds and following seas ever, sailor and teacher. Requiescat in pace.

    In one of his sailing books (Atlantic High) he explains, and teaches well, the core of celestial navigation, not a subject where political pontification and blathering is of much use.

  47. With friends like John Kenneth Galbrith(a horse’s ass if there ever was one) and the editor at the NY Times who died about a year ago, and Dan Rather; it is more accurate to describe Buckley as an elitist then a conservative.

    Yeah, once you start mixing with people who have different opinions than yours then it’s…no, wait, that’s just silly.

  48. You had to have a dicitonary handy when reading that guy.

    One of my favorite recollections from Firing Line: A very young Michael Kinsley debating WFB about something, and having to admit halfway through (paraphrasing closely) “you are tap-dancing on my muddled liberal head”. Later in the program Kinsley scored when WFB impertinently used the word “adze”. Unflustered, Kinsley simply sneered what the heck does that mean.

    I also recall a segment in which Neil Kinnock held his own quite well with WFB. Ancient history.

  49. My favorite Buckley moment was when he let Ginsburg read his poetry, left a moment of silence when he was done, and then calmly said, “Rubbish.”

    That or calling Vidal a fag on TV. Dude had a real instinct for flames

    You sure your favorite is the fag bashing?
    What about the racism?

    I’m not going to judge the man on what he wrote 50 years ago (won’t look past it either – one way or the other that’s a part of his legacy), but to pick out homophobic moments as his highlights? WTF?

    (Don’t mind me if it turns out that my sarcasmometer is on the fritz.)

  50. Here are the details of the exchange between Vidal and Buckley (video included):

    http://www.pitt.edu/~kloman/debates.html

    “Now listen, you queer,” he said, “stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in your goddamn face and you’ll stay plastered.”

  51. In hindsight, he was wrong about McCarthy and Civil Rights, but right on just about everything else.

    He was also one of the last American intellectuals, and can never be replaced.

  52. Probably the last representation of classic liberalism, even with the stubborn adherence to tradition and the few statist views he espoused. It was all downhill for NR after he left, and his unique views will be missed. As the first modern and one of the most subtle political trolls, he has my respect.

    RIP

  53. “Buckley was openly opposed to the Iraq War.”

    Yeah, four years after it started.

    But when his voice might have made a difference?

    Not so much.

  54. William F. Buckley created a movement that rejected individual liberty, free-market economics, and peace in favor of total war and an all-powerful state in order to pursue war. His brand of conservatism merged with neo-conservatism, thus creating what Lew Rockwell correctly calls “red state fascism”. Red state fascism is now mainstream conservatism. It is a depraved ideology that embraces total war and blind obedience to the executive branch of the federal government. It rejects economic and personal liberty and favors central planning and regulation of all facets of society.

    Buckley was certainly not a libertarian although he possessed more libertarian views than someone like Bill Kristol. Buckley is closer in ideology to the red state neo-con fascism of National Review, Townhall, and Free Republic than he is to the libertarianism of Chodorov, Rothbard, and Mises.

  55. I was once a fan. He was one of the first educated word smiths I encountered. There’s a certain seductiveness that level of craftsmanship. But I blame him for the fusionism. The abusive relationship between conservatives and libertarians, where conservatives would run as libertarians and govern as fascists. WFBJr. set back the libertarian movement in this country fifty years. Of course he didn’t do it alone.

  56. # “Now listen, you queer,” he said,
    # “stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock
    # you in your goddamn face and you’ll stay
    # plastered.”

    Given that Buckley’s own delivery was so distinctive, why does my mind’s ear persist in hearing this quotation in Carroll O’Connor’s Archie Bunker voice?

    Ah, the sixties and 70s: Truly the golden age for lovable bigots on TV. And make no mistake, WFB was widely loved by his audience, which included many self-professed liberals. His show was on PBS, for cripes sake.

  57. “Anyone here ever read any of his novels?”

    I liked his Blackfork Oakes spy novels – they were the closest thing to an American version of “The Sandbaggers” that I’ve come across. Pretty decent work.
    RIP.

  58. Davebo,

    He did publish some rather doubtful columns much earlier than 2007, but you’re right, he didn’t do much when it mattered.

  59. Given that Buckley’s own delivery was so distinctive, why does my mind’s ear persist in hearing this quotation in Carroll O’Connor’s Archie Bunker voice?

    Of course, YouTube has it for your viewing and listening pleasure.

  60. My favorite Buckley moment is when he reach over Howard K. Smith to punch Gore Vidal for calling him a NAZI.

    I can’t find a clip, but that summer of 68, watching the conventions made me the political junkie that I am today. Sadly, since then there has been no fix as good as that first fix.

  61. one of my favorite conversationalists. he had a great style if not always an accurate view. he rarely lost, never acknowledged when he did and kept smiling. Noam Chomsky owned him, though. I’ll miss him.

  62. I’m a big fan of Vidal’s Julian and Creation, but I’d like to punch him myself on occasion.

  63. I always enjoyed his collections of essays, but I only read one of his novels, Red Hunter. It was surprisingly awful, leaving aside any of the politics of Joe McCarthy.
    Sad to see Buckley is gone; sadder when I think of the so-called ‘conservatives’ (Limbaugh, Coulter, Hannity) who now have the stage.

  64. It’s too bad that Bill Buckley is no longer here to be the much-needed voice of reason in the conservative movement. His own philosophy (economically libertarian, socially moderate) should be the guide for today’s right. Instead it has been taken over by the likes of Bill Kristol, a statist who jerks off to the thought of raising taxes to pay for a war with Iran, North Korea, and, just for good measure, Pakistan. All the more reason to mourn his passing. RIP.

  65. Warren,
    Can you honestly say that Bill Buckley harmed the libertarian movement? While he may have held some positions bothersome to libertarians, he and his allies helped to push through many of the reforms of the eighties that reduced government intrusions on the liberties of citizens. As for the things where we disagree, they had little actual policy impact.

  66. Buckley 40 years ago…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXLTDUPJqsU

    Starting at 1:09, Buckley’s statement drips with glistening libertarianism.

  67. modern American conservatism often enough that his endorsement of statist schemes such as “national service”

    Give him a break, he was an East Coast blue-blood. He’s not going to be perfect.

  68. Another WFB YouTube gem is the Buckley/Chomsky Firing Line debate regarding US Cold War interventionism. The degree of civility is almost jarring when contrasted with our present day cable news circuses. The past truly is another country.

    Check it out here

  69. I really liked the guy, and I have no idea why. I’d like to say it was his stance vis-a-vis the war on drugs, but there has to be something else. Buckley makes me nostalgic for a conservatism that is dead today, not because I would align myself with him, but because there was back then something so refreshingly stark about the differences between Buckley and, say, Vidal or Chomsky. Maybe it’s because Chomsky so completely pwned him that I was embarrassed for him. But I always genuinely enjoyed seeing him put in his two cents.

  70. History stood athwart him and yelled Stop.

  71. Buckley may be dead, but conservatism’s corpse is still walking.

  72. economist,
    I’m saying that since the 50’s, libertarians have allied themselves with conservatives to their own detriment.

    he and his allies helped to push through many of the reforms of the eighties that reduced government intrusions on the liberties of citizens.
    The only reform I can think of for which that is true is ending the draft. The deregulation of transportation and telecommunication industries for which conservatives take credit were actually Carter initiatives.

    As for the things where we disagree, they had little actual policy impact.
    I think things like: the military industrial complex, foreign military intervention, the War On Drugs, pornography prosecutions, gambling regulation, opposition to gay marriage have had a great, and detrimental, policy impact.

  73. pinko,
    Was it his eloquence? That’s what it was for me. I loved hearing him talk. And never more so than in debate. Loved those Firing Line debates.

  74. When I was a teenage conservative, WFB was one of me heroes. When I had my libertarian conversion and went back and read the history of the postwar conservative movement, I realized WFB was a backstabbing bastard. Then WFB retired and this new generation of know-nothing punks took over National Review. At that point, I realized WFB was a bastard, but at least he was my bastard.

  75. Thanks Rick, I’ve updated my blog with your link (and attribution, of course).

    tip of the glass, man.

  76. If you don’t like Buckley, keep in mind that he lived long to see that helpless, drooling, helmet-wearing retard Jonah Goldberg become the face of his baby.

    Goldberg is the Gus Webb of the National Review, and more than anyone else he symbolizes the magazine to such an extent that he IS the Review now, much more than that wanna-be-Mitt-bride they have as an editor over there now.

  77. In 1976, National Review published an article ‘proving’ that Libertarians were communist.

  78. Bummer! I wasn’t around when he was in his heyday, but I used to read the National Review with some regularity, and he was always very eloquent. I didn’t always agree with what he said, but I always agreed with how he said it. RIP

  79. Yeah the accent and his delivery were probably the thing. I also didn’t know much of him until after he’d mellowed quite a bit, so I just assumed he was always quite mellow and even gracious.

  80. Les | February 27, 2008, 2:28pm | #
    With friends like John Kenneth Galbrith(a horse’s ass if there ever was one) and the editor at the NY Times who died about a year ago, and Dan Rather; it is more accurate to describe Buckley as an elitist then a conservative.

    Yeah, once you start mixing with people who have different opinions than yours then it’s…no, wait, that’s just silly.

    Wrong. Those men I mentioned did everything they could, which includes LYING, to making conservatives look like Nazis or worse.
    A conservative being friends with them is like a black being friends with Ku Klux Klan members or a Jew being a friend of Nazis.
    That evidence and that evidence alone, proves Buckley thought of social status as more important then political beliefs.
    He gave conservatism more credance then a parlos game, but not much more.
    He was a blue blood, first, last and always.

  81. Here’s the first segment of the Chomsky interview with Buckley on Fireing Line.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDmqRc80jJQ&feature=related

    The subsequent parts are interesting as well. This sort of considered political debate, where meaning is manifestly important, seems sadly lacking in contemporary broadcast media.

  82. Wine Commonsewer,

    For sure. You’re quite welcome.

    Cheers!

  83. highnumber | February 27, 2008, 2:34pm | #
    GILMORE SAYS =
    “My favorite Buckley moment was when he let Ginsburg read his poetry, left a moment of silence when he was done, and then calmly said, “Rubbish.””

    You sure your favorite is the fag bashing?
    What about the racism?

    Im not sure my point was sarcastic (i.e. intending the opposite – like it was *especially bad*), but more tongue-in-cheek, where I was pointing out the guy wasnt exactly *generous* to people of alternative viewpoints, intellectual powerhouse or not.

    Basically – think of it this way:

    like, Morton Downey Junior
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morton_Downey_Jr.

    …the father of schlock debate, the forefather of jerry springer, the man who made Donahue look like charlie rose…

    His “doucheness” was partly what made him so endearing. You have to love a guy who insults people to their face. Yes, he was a populist idiot, but his brassiness, even when offensive, was something that was highly entertaining.

    To wit, with Buckley, I ask that we should also recognize he wasnt above the occasional, “say that again and I’ll punch you the face you simpering queer” A man in full, as it were.

    I like that about the guy. Not his ACTUAL racism or homophobia. But the fact, that when called a “proto-fascist”, he’d go “oh yeah? Fuck you! Want to fight? Fag.”

    That does not make him a more honorable man, but it is a more accurate depiction of his character. He didnt run around like the Westboro baptists saying Fag Enablers are going to hell. But he obviously wasnt exactly a big fan.

    Footnote = Morton Downey Jr and Ron Paul got into it in the 80s over snorting coke, killing babies.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHB2I83_N_k

  84. I don’t pretend to agree with everything he said, but there’s no denying his wit, nor his intellectual curiosity.

    I will say that his articles criticizing the drug war were probably the single biggest influence shaping my up-and-coming libertarianism. They broke the dam of me questioning a lot of the unspoken assumptions of government and society at large.

  85. Might as well mention it here too: Firing Line didn’t start on PBS or its predecessor NET, but on commercial TV. Here in NYC it was on channel 11, WPIX.

  86. Who cares? Has Robert Byrd? Do you have concerns with anything he’s said since the 60s? Or was that it?

    Don’t be an idiot mike…Joe can’t even provide a quote of Buckley saying anything…yet you automatically fall into his “All non-socialists are racists trap”

  87. Oh, joshua. Now I’m going to make you look like an idiot.

    Again. Don’t you ever learn?

  88. R.I.P. William F. Buckley, Jr., a Renaissance man par excellence: iconoclastic magazine founder; crypto-libertarian/Cold Warrior crusading journalist; urbane public television intellectual; espionage novelist; New York mayoral candidate; sailor. He cut through the left-liberal claptrap with a fine-edged scalpel rather than the scattershot blunderbusses and rusty machetes commonplace in contemporary cable caterwauling. More than even the Great Communicator Ronald Reagan, WFB was my intellectual Godfather. His ilk will not be seen again, I fear.

  89. Hi, corning. Here, I’ll highlight my favorite parts for you.

    National Review editorial, 8/24/1957, 4:7, pp. 148-9: The most important event of the past three weeks was the remarkable and unexpected vote by the Senate to guarantee to defendants in a criminal contempt action the privilege of a jury trial. That vote does not necessarily affirm a citizen’s intrinsic rights: trial by jury in contempt actions, civil or criminal, is not an American birthright, and it cannot, therefore, be maintained that the Senate’s vote upheld, pure and simple, the Common Law.

    What the Senate did was to leave undisturbed the mechanism that spans the abstractions by which a society is guided and the actual, sublunary requirements of the individual community. In that sense, the vote was a conservative victory. For the effect of it is–and let us speak about it bluntly–to permit a jury to modify or waive the law in such circumstances as, in the judgment of the jury, require so grave an interposition between the law and its violator.

    What kind of circumstances do we speak about? Again, let us speak frankly. The South does not want to deprive the Negro of a vote for the sake of depriving him of the vote. Political scientists assert that minorities do not vote as a unit. Women do not vote as a bloc, they contend; nor do Jews, or Catholics, or laborers, or nudists–nor do Negroes; nor will the enfranchised Negroes of the South.

    If that is true, the South will not hinder the Negro from voting–why should it, if the Negro vote, like the women’s, merely swells the volume, but does not affect the ratio, of the vote? In some parts of the South, the White community merely intends to prevail on any issue on which there is corporate disagreement between Negro and White. The White community will take whatever measures are necessary to make certain that it has its way.

    What are the issues? Is school integration one? The NAACP and others insist that the Negroes as a unit want integrated schools. Others disagree, contending that most Negroes approve the social sepaation of the races. What if the NAACP is correct, and the matter comes to a vote in a community in which Negroes predominate? The Negroes would, according to democratic processes, win the election; but that is the kind of situation the White community will not permit. The White community will not count the marginal Negro vote. The man who didn’t count it will be hauled up before a jury, he will plead not guilty, and the jury, upon deliberation, will find him not guilty. A federal judge, in a similar situation, might find the defendant guilty, a judgment which would affirm the law and conform with the relevant political abstractions, but whose consequences might be violent and anarchistic.

    The central question that emerges–and it is not a parliamentary question or a question that is answered by meerely consulting a catalog of the rights of American citizens, born Equal–is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes–the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race. It is not easy, and it is unpleasant, to adduce statistics evidencing the median cultural superiority of White over Negro: but it is fact that obtrudes, one that cannot be hidden by ever-so-busy egalitarians and anthropologists. The question, as far as the White community is concerned, is whether the claims of civilization supersede those of universal suffrage. The British believe they do, and acted accordingly, in Kenya, where the choice was dramatically one between civilization and barbarism, and elsewhere; the South, where the conflict is by no means dramatic, as in Kenya, nevertheless perceives important qualitative differences between its culture and the Negroes’, and intends to assert its own.

    National Review believes that the South’s premises are correct. If the majority wills what is socially atavistic, then to thwart the majority may be, though undemocratic, enlightened. It is more important for any community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numerical majority. Sometimes it becomes impossible to assert the will of a minority, in which case it must give way, and the society will regress; sometimes the numberical minority cannot prevail except by violence: then it must determine whether the prevalence of its will is worth the terrible price of violence.

    The axiom on which many of the arguments supporting the original version of the Civil Rights bill were based was Universal Suffrage. Everyone in America is entitled to the vote, period. No right is prior to that, no obligation subordinate to it; from this premise all else proceeds.

    That, of course, is demagogy. Twenty-year-olds do not generally have the vote, and it is not seriously argued that the difference between 20 and 21-year-olds is the difference between slavery and freedom. The residents of the District of Columbia do not vote: and the population of D.C. increases by geometric proportion. Millions who have the vote do not care to exercise it; millions who have it do not know how to exercise it and do not care to learn. The great majorit of the Negroes of the South who do not vote do not care to vote, and would not know for what to vote if they could. Overwhelming numbers of White people in the South do not vote. Universal suffrage is not the beginning of wisdom or the beginning of freedom. Reasonable limitations upon the vote are not exclusively the recommendations of tyrants or oligarchists (was Jefferson either?). The problem in the South is not how to get the vote for the Negro, but how to equip the Negro–and a great many Whites–to cast an enlightened and responsible vote.

    The South confronts one grave moral challenge. It must not exploit the fact of Negro backwardness to preserve teh Negro as a servile class. It is tempting and convenient to block the progress of a minority whose services, as menials, are economically useful. Let the South never permit itself to do this. So long as it is merely asserting the right to impose superior mores for whatever period it takes to effect a genuine cultural equality between the races, and so long as it does so by humane and charitable means, the South is in step with civilization, as is the Congress that permits it to function.

  90. See, joshua, not only did I pwn you, but I did it while wearing a duck suit.

  91. Must you, joe? Really? Must you fill even this thread with your self-righteous indignation?

    It’s getting tedious, you’re getting tedious, and your Narcissism Donderoesque.

    See, joshua, not only did I pwn you, but I did it while wearing a duck suit.

    …Anyways, did you know, joe, after he was taken to task for that by some conservatives, he suggested that it’s the uneducated who should not be allowed to vote. Can’t say I disagree with that.

    RIP, WFB. Thanks for saving the Republic. You arrived in the nick of time.

  92. …Anyways, did you know, joe, after he was taken to task for that by some conservatives, he suggested that it’s the uneducated who should not be allowed to vote.

    We can work with that.

  93. “R.I.P. William F. Buckley, Jr., a Renaissance man par excellence: iconoclastic magazine founder; crypto-libertarian/Cold Warrior crusading journalist; urbane public television intellectual; espionage novelist; New York mayoral candidate; sailor. He cut through the left-liberal claptrap with a fine-edged scalpel rather than the scattershot blunderbusses and rusty machetes commonplace in contemporary cable caterwauling.”

    May I second that? I had also seen him play harpsichord on some TV interview, as well as reading a couple of his espionage novels. His first language was actually Spanish, having grown up in Mexico and Venezuela – apparently the younger Buckley kids spoke no English until they were four or five years old.

    Whoever thinks he is an East Coast elite has no idea of how the man was raised. He was a true Renaissance Man.

  94. The problem in the South is not how to get the vote for the Negro, but how to equip the Negro–and a great many Whites–to cast an enlightened and responsible vote.

    So Buckley said that “There sure are some stupid voters out there…blacks and whites alike”

    Wow joe you sure found him out to be the cad he is.

    I don’t agree with him…but on that same token it is not hard to find a Democrat who express similar views…ie some people are stupid and should not vote.

    In fact just after the 2004 election it was near impossible to find one who did not believe exactly that.

    Common socialist view on pretty much everything really…if a non-socialist says something it is bad…if a socialist says the same thing it is good.

  95. So Buckley said that “There sure are some stupid voters out there…blacks and whites alike”

    Yes, that’s exactly what the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes–the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race There are dumb voters, black and white. That’s precisely what “the white race is the advanced race” means.

    Not.

    Just slink back under your rock, and try to wash my bootprints off your hide.

  96. !,

    When I can expect to be treated with a modicum of civility and respect, and when I can expect that lowlifes like corning will be denounced without my having to do it myself, I won’t have to do things like that.

  97. Daffy Duck,
    While I might question WFB’s attitude, in the 50’s, towards blacks as a race, modern-day “black culture” would seem, in large part, to confirm his argument. My personal favorite is the collectivist “black values” system endorsed by, among others, Barack Obama’s pastor.

  98. Buckley was right! Some people are stupid and shouldn’t vote! That’s why democracy needs to be rethought.

  99. for fuck’s sake, people.

    it’s one thing to point out that suffrage has downsides, and that it’s exercise is dwindling.

    it’s another to say “it’s not a big deal for the state to prevent people from exercising their rights because of their membership, from birth, in a racial category, because they’d just make bad decisions.”

    yeah it was 1957. but there’s no reason to defend things like that, much less embrace them.

  100. yeah it was 1957. but there’s no reason to defend things like that, much less embrace them.

    Umm who here defends them?

    Oh wait i suppose if you take out part and simply state “it’s not a big deal for the state to prevent people from exercising their rights because they’d just make bad decisions.”

    Then you could get joe to defend it.

  101. I do find this intersting though…in essence Buckley is defending the Demoratic parties possition at the time.

    The South confronts one grave moral challenge. It must not exploit the fact of Negro backwardness to preserve teh Negro as a servile class. It is tempting and convenient to block the progress of a minority whose services, as menials, are economically useful. Let the South never permit itself to do this. So long as it is merely asserting the right to impose superior mores for whatever period it takes to effect a genuine cultural equality between the races, and so long as it does so by humane and charitable means, the South is in step with civilization, as is the Congress that permits it to function.

    And if you replace “the south” with “the state”
    and the words “Negro”and “minority” with “the individual” you would have a pretty good working position paper for the Democratic party of today.

  102. What was your position during the ’50s?

  103. But I blame him for the fusionism. The abusive relationship between conservatives and libertarians, where conservatives would run as libertarians and govern as fascists.

    Read The Vampire Economy (pdf) and you may come to be more concerned about Democratic fascism.

    The author of The Elephant in the Room (Evangelicals, Libertarians and the Battle to Control the Republican Party) hopes that fusionism will return in a Cato book forum.

  104. Which, really, is the decent thing to do.

    Why, joe? Isn’t it enough to win the argument, to banish racism to “Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, go directly to unemployed.” heresy? If WFB found his old position so untenable that he hadn’t mentioned it in decades, I don’t want for shows of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

  105. When I can expect to be treated with a modicum of civility and respect, and when I can expect that lowlifes like corning will be denounced without my having to do it myself, I won’t have to do things like that.

    The Good Book sez, let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

  106. Robert’s not got Firing Line‘s history quite right. The show started on WOR, Channel 9 (now WWOR), before moving to PBS.

    Buckley’s acquiescence to Southern Segregationists was troubling. On the one hand, a conservative’s natural impulse to resist Washington’s meddling in local affairs is, prima facie, admirable. On the other hand, the Constitution expressly charges the Federal government to guarantee a republican form of government in the states, and that includes enforcing the civil war amendments. Even those who wanted to preserve the rights of private business owners to associate or with individuals of their choice didn’t have a leg to stand on when defending a government that discriminated among its citizens on invidious grounds such as race.

    Contemplating the establishment of a voters roll based on honest literacy tests that excluded uneducated whites as well as blacks is an interesting historical Gedankenexperiment, but nothing more than that. The alternative to reforming the corrupt practices of the Jim Crow system would never have been the disenfranchisement of lower class whites.

    Kevin

  107. joshua:

    Umm who here defends them?

    see two above my original post:


    economist | February 27, 2008, 9:23pm | #
    Daffy Duck,
    While I might question WFB’s attitude, in the 50’s, towards blacks as a race, modern-day “black culture” would seem, in large part, to confirm his argument. My personal favorite is the collectivist “black values” system endorsed by, among others, Barack Obama’s pastor.

    perhaps this was a troll, of course.

  108. What was your position during the ’50s?

    I think it was “I sure hope Jack and Mary Ann get it on sometime in early 1971”

  109. lowlifes like corning

    I got joe to call me a lowlife…I should get some sort of award or something.

  110. “Buckley’s acquiescence to Southern Segregationists was troubling. On the one hand, a conservative’s natural impulse to resist Washington’s meddling in local affairs is, prima facie, admirable. On the other hand, the Constitution expressly charges the Federal government to guarantee a republican form of government in the states, and that includes enforcing the civil war amendments. Even those who wanted to preserve the rights of private business owners to associate or with individuals of their choice didn’t have a leg to stand on when defending a government that discriminated among its citizens on invidious grounds such as race.”

    Kevin, your summary doesn’t “get it quite right” either. Though WFB’s 1957 stance was vile, he’s softened quite a bit by the late 60s, as evidenced by this exchange with George Wallace of Alabama, on Firing Line in January 1968.

    Wallace: Well my… conservative to me means that you should allow, on the governmental scene, allow local people to try to determine policies of local democratic institutions.”

    Buckley: How can they without the vote?

    Wallace: Without what?

    Buckley: The vote. V-o-t-e.

    Wallace: Well…

    Buckley: What steps would you take to encourage the enfranchisement of the Negro..

    Wallace: Well, I’ve always…well, I’ll be glad to tell you, I’ve always made speeches in my state in which I said anybody’s entitled to vote regardless of their race or color…qualified under the laws of Alabama, and we had Negro citizens by the thousands who voted in 1958, when I first ran for governor, and I might say, in the runoff for governor, that they voted for me.

    Buckley: Is that because they didn’t have the education you’re talking about?

  111. More from that 1968 Firing Line exchange.

    Wallace: Alabama’s been treated almost as a province by the bureaucrats and the Supreme Court of the United States and that’s one reason I may be in the presidential race, is I’m tired of Alabama being treated as a province.

    Buckley: As a taxpayer, Governor, I don’t think a lot of Americans who are paying taxes into Alabama would necessarily adopt that position. Honestly, you’re forcing me to sound like a liberal, which has never happened to me before in my entire life. I don’t believe strings ought to be attached, but I do believe that Alabama, Alabamans ought to be protected by the Constitution of the United States.

    Wallace: Well, they are protected.

    Buckley: Well, they have been inadequately protected.

    Wallace: They haven’t been inadequately protected.

    Moderator: Governor, let’s get Mr. Buckley to fill in the particulars. In what respect aren’t Alabamans protected by the Constitution?

    BuckleyThey have not been protected, for instance, in Selma, Alabama, it seemed to me notorious, that the rights of certain Negroes were not adequately protected by the sheriff down there.

  112. atrevete:

    Yes, WFB had adjusted his position by the 1960s, when I was first reading him. His enemies on the left could always accuse him of having retreated from a position that had become untenable, but one could say the same of George Wallace, himself, 10 years on.

    Kevin

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