William F. Buckley is dead

William F. Buckley, 1926-2008.

Buckley was an icon of the conservative movement. An architect, even.

As a writer and architect of the modern conservative movement he truly made his mark. He founded National Review in 1955 at age 30, when the world considered conservative intellectuals a genetic impossibility. Just nine years later, NR would prove instrumental in Barry Goldwater’s rise to the GOP nomination for president. In 1980, Goldwater protege Ronald Reagan won the White House, and made National Review mandatory reading for his entire staff.

Rick Perlstein wrote a moving obit:

He was a good and decent man. He knew exactly what my politics were about—he knew I was an implacable ideological adversary—yet he offered his friendship to me nonetheless. He did the honor of respecting his ideological adversaries, without covering up the adversarial nature of the relationship in false bonhommie. A remarkable quality, all too rare in an era of the false fetishization of “post-partisanship” and Broderism and go-along-to-get-along. He was friends with those he fought. He fought with friends. These are the highest civic ideals to which an American patriot can aspire.

Anyone trying to understand the history, power, and current form of the conservative counter-establishment must study Buckley.

This is a famous moment in American history, Buckley debating Gore Vidal on the demonstrations in front of the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago:


And here are a few other good obituaries, though I still think that Rick Perlstein’s is the best.