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  1. #1
    The Boognish FuzzyLumpkins's Avatar
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    Self-styled 'conservatives' really should read this.

    What William F. Buckley Would Think of Today’s GOP

    A significant milestone in the history of American conservatism passed largely unnoticed last month: the fiftieth anniversary of William F. Buckley Jr.’s editorial attack on Robert Welch, the head of the John Birch Society. Buckley’s successful effort to read the conspiracy-minded anti-Communist organization out of the conservative movement deserves to be remembered by the Republican Party. Indeed, the fact that today’s GOP has paid the anniversary little heed is a telling indictment of a party gone seriously astray. Rather than honor Buckley’s example, the right-wingers currently controlling the party have made an unabashed habit of defying it.

    Welch was a retired candy maker who created the Birch Society in 1958 to mobilize conservatives against what he saw as an imminent Communist takeover of the United States from within. Buckley himself had sounded similar alarms on behalf of red-baiting Senator Joseph McCarthy, but believed that Welch crossed into paranoia with his assertion that America’s government leaders—including President Dwight Eisenhower, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, CIA Director Allen Dulles, and most members of the Supreme Court—were active Communist agents. Buckley was also distressed by other Birch claims: that Red Chinese armies were massing at the Mexican border to invade the U.S.; University of Chicago professors were plotting to deprive Americans of their rights to vote and hold property; and elite groups such as the Council on Foreign Relations and the Bildergbergers were seeking to merge the U.S. with the Soviet Union in a one-world socialist government. The Birch Society’s notion that those who doubted these theories thereby revealed themselves as Communist sympathizers struck Buckley as self-reinforcing lunacy.

    Having spent the better part of a decade doing research in Buckley’s archives, I can attest that it was no easy matter for Buckley to take on Welch and his Society. Many of the financial backers and readers of Buckley’s National Review magazine admired Welch and his organization; Buckley’s own mother was a Bircher. His editorial colleagues warned that criticizing Welch risked splitting the conservative movement. Buckley’s position as movement leader would be jeopardized by the liberal plaudits that predictably would follow his editorial condemnation of the Birchers; as Buckley put it privately, “I wish to hell I could attack them without pleasing people I can’t stand to please.”

    Nonetheless, in February 1962 National Review ran a six-page editorial against Welch, arguing that he was damaging the anti-Communist cause by “distorting reality” and failing to distinguish between an “active pro-Communist” and an “ineffectually anti-Communist liberal.” It would be several years before Buckley excommunicated all Birchers from the conservative movement, but his editorial emphasized that “There are bounds to the dictum, Anyone on the right is my ally.”

    Buckley paid a price for his stand, as National Review endured torrents of angry letters and cancelled subscriptions, and the defection of some of its deep-pocketed donors. But in the long run, Buckley’s break with Welch saved conservatism. At the time Buckley wrote his editorial, the movement had been tainted by its associated with the Birch Society: In the spring of 1962, Buckley was considered such a fringe public figure that he was invited, in earnest, by Hunter College to speak in an “Out of the Mainstream” lecture series along with leaders of the Nation of Islam, the Communist Party, and the American Nazi Party. By separating conservatism from the Birchers, Buckley made his movement respectable and introduced it into the mainstream of American political life.

    Buckley’s struggle against the Birchers has clearly acquired new relevance with the rise of the Tea Party movement. The Tea Party is not the modern-day counterpart of the Birch Society; it more resembles the broad and diffuse right-wing upheaval of the early 1960s of which the Birch movement was a part, and which culminated in the conservative seizure of the GOP presidential nomination for Barry Goldwater in 1964. Still, there are parallels between the two phenomena that ought to concern conservatives today.

    Tea Partiers for the most part have policed their ranks to exclude overt racists and anti-Semites, but have trafficked in wild, Birch-flavored conspiracy theories, such as the claim that Christians are persecuted in America and that Barack Obama is a foreign-born Muslim socialist. Glenn Beck, while he was the Tea Party guru at Fox News, peddled the views of Welch and Birch fellow-traveler W. Cleon Skousen to an audience of millions. In order to pass muster with grassroots conservatives, Republican politicians increasingly find that they must subscribe to the belief that global warming is a hoax concocted by the international scientific community.

    Buckley felt that outlandish stances discredited conservatism by making it seem “ridiculous and pathological,” as he wrote to a supporter who had criticized his editorial. They allowed the media to tar all conservatives as extremists, and turned off young people. He insisted that conservatism had to expand “by bringing into our ranks those people who are, at the moment, on our immediate left—the moderate, wishy-washy conservatives” who comprised the majority of the Republican Party. “If they think they are being asked to join a movement whose leadership believes the drivel of Robert Welch,” he warned, “they will pass by crackpot alley, and will not pause until they feel the embrace of those way over on the other side, the Liberals.” Buckley consistently maintained that conservatism was the “politics of reality.”

    Needless to say, it is not a keen grasp of reality that distinguishes the politics of the Tea Party. The many Tea Partiers who fail to distinguish between liberalism and socialism are only repeating the errors of the Birchers, whom Buckley criticized for their “neurotic oversimplifications.” In his later years, Buckley believed that the Republican failures in Iraq stemmed from a similar tendency to engage in ideological wishful thinking instead of hard analysis. He also cautioned against the tendency of conservatives to transform the cautious insights of supply-side economics, for example, into theological certainties, and to move toward ever more narrow and rigid definitions of doctrinal acceptability. Fanaticism and obsession, he believed, ultimately represented a surrender of individual freedom. As the high priest of the conservative movement, Buckley had latitude to advance unorthodox proposals such as the legalization of marijuana without being condemned for apostasy, but he also sought similar indulgence for other conservative thinkers.

    Above all, Buckley wanted conservatism to be a responsible and effective governing philosophy. He recognized that a movement that delegitimizes its opponents as Communists and traitors is doomed to be irresponsible and ineffective. He warned against conservative triumphalism and refusal to compromise. He had been mentored by Whittaker Chambers on the need to balance the ideal with the practical, and to strive for conservative advances that inevitably would fall short of utopia. To live, Buckley reminded conservatives, is to maneuver.

    Of course, any attempt to analyze how Buckley would view conservatism today can only be speculative. I have to admit that when I used to visit Buckley at his home in Connecticut, conservative politics was the very last topic he wanted to talk about, and instead we usually ended up discussing pop music and the intricacies of Yale history. But he obviously was proud of the conservative movement and his role in its creation and eventual victories. I suspect that he would have seen the Tea Party as a heartening reminder of the movement’s inexhaustible potential for self-renewal. And if the wayward ideological enthusiasms of some Tea Party supporters gave fresh importance to the tale of how Buckley saved conservatism a half century ago by disassociating it from Birch extremism, well, so much the better.
    http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/...n-conservatism
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  2. #2
    Believe. admiralsnackbar's Avatar
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    His erudition betrays his liberal elitism. No room in the ever-shrinking "big tent" for such a one.

  3. #3
    The Boognish FuzzyLumpkins's Avatar
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    His erudition betrays his liberal elitism. No room in the ever-shrinking "big tent" for such a one.
    Who are you referring to? Buckley or the author?

  4. #4
    Believe. admiralsnackbar's Avatar
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    Who are you referring to? Buckley or the author?
    By the current standards of the movement which has co-opted the GOP brand, it's clear enough that both are pink as salmon from the scenic waters of Commiefaggot river.

    The author is just trying to inject the pure beauty of the Tea Party's vision with his grotesque red revisionism, as if Buckley weren't obviously a Soviet mole.
    Last edited by admiralsnackbar; 04-04-2012 at 05:15 AM.

  5. #5
    The Boognish FuzzyLumpkins's Avatar
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    By the current standards of the movement which has co-opted the GOP brand, it's clear enough that both are pink as salmon from the scenic waters of Commiefaggot river.

    The author is just trying to inject the pure beauty of the Tea Party's vision with his grotesque red revisionism, as if Buckley weren't obviously a Soviet mole.
    I am just glad to see that there is some pushback from conservative intellectuals as to the politics of the contemporary so called 'conservatives.'

  6. #6
    Believe. admiralsnackbar's Avatar
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    I am just glad to see that there is some pushback from conservative intellectuals as to the politics of the contemporary so called 'conservatives.'
    I kinda agree with you, except that the piece lacks the conviction to merit being called "pushback," don't you think?

    The author does lightly censure the modern GOP but, if anything, what begins as a history of the emergence of Buckley's 20th century conservatism ends with conciliatory bromides that conservatism is change ("to live is to maneuver"), and that Buckley would have appreciated the Tea Party's derring-do, as though Buckley would be blind to the astroturf from which the movement sprouted, or its characteristic righteous emotions are more valuable than reasoned discourse attitude. Buckley really was an elite in this way: he loathed uneducated hoi poloi.

    Anyway, conservative intellectuals still exist, they've just been "written out" of the Republican party mainstream at the slightest hint of pushback (or have themselves left the party out of disgust).

    So maybe the author is trying to catch flies with sugar? But it doesn't seem to me like there are enough people interested in party history prior to their already not-so-historical conception of St. Ronnie to bother. And really, the flaw in Buckley's conservatism was just that: there were never enough people interested in dispassionate reasoning to win the GOP any elections. Hence the Southern Strategy and the courtship of Christian mass-media -- which are ironically the same strategies that lured the groups who came to redefine modern conservatism as the antithesis of "intellectual."

  7. #7
    Veteran DarrinS's Avatar
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    Had to stop reading after this paragraph.


    Tea Partiers for the most part have policed their ranks to exclude overt racists and anti-Semites, but have trafficked in wild, Birch-flavored conspiracy theories, such as the claim that Christians are persecuted in America and that Barack Obama is a foreign-born Muslim socialist. Glenn Beck, while he was the Tea Party guru at Fox News, peddled the views of Welch and Birch fellow-traveler W. Cleon Skousen to an audience of millions. In order to pass muster with grassroots conservatives, Republican politicians increasingly find that they must subscribe to the belief that global warming is a hoax concocted by the international scientific community.

  8. #8
    dangerous floater Winehole23's Avatar
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    indeed, why read anything that doesn't flatter your biases?

  9. #9
    dangerous floater Winehole23's Avatar
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    lol proud of not reading

  10. #10
    Veteran DarrinS's Avatar
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    lol proud of not reading
    Why continue reading an argument that starts with a false premise?

  11. #11
    dangerous floater Winehole23's Avatar
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    that's not the beginning, silly

  12. #12
    Veteran Wild Cobra's Avatar
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    that's not the beginning, silly
    Not the beginning of an obvious false premise?
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  13. #13
    dangerous floater Winehole23's Avatar
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    Darrin said the argument "started" with a false premise; that premise appears midway through.

  14. #14
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    Buckley wanted conservatism to be "a responsible and effective governing philosophy".

    Both responsibility and effectiveness are high standards these days.

    Conservative philosophy can still be both responsible and effective, I would argue.

    Unfortunately, Conservatism, as Buckley described it, is most certainly not characteristic of today's Republican base, nor of the Tea Party.

  15. #15
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    The part about 'delegitimizing your opponents' can apply to far left and far right equally.

    Thing is, Buckley always perceived the far left to be 'blue collar and undereducated'. I think that description characterizes the Republican base today far more than it characterizes the far left.

  16. #16
    Veteran DarrinS's Avatar
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    Darrin said the argument "started" with a false premise; that premise appears midway through.

    Whinehole can't see the forest for the trees.

  17. #17
    dangerous floater Winehole23's Avatar
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    what forest? you picked at a nit...

  18. #18
    Veteran Wild Cobra's Avatar
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    Darrin said the argument "started" with a false premise; that premise appears midway through.
    So you are dinging him on not being clear when it's obvious what he meant?

    His answer clearly meant he wasn't going to continue reading once he read the false premise.

    Why are you making more into this than what it is?

  19. #19
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    WEll, the author of this article clearly has some biases, but he owns those pretty quickly.

    The thing is, Buckley would have read this guy and argued with him.

    Folks like Darrin, being closer to a radical than a conservative, refuse to do so, closing their eyes to match their minds.

  20. #20
    Veteran DarrinS's Avatar
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    what forest? you picked at a nit...

    The premise is a "nit"? Mmmmmmmkay.


    I'm surprised you don't see the irony in the OP.


    The Birchers were paranoid about everyone being a Communist. The OP is paranoid everyone in "Today's GOP" and the Tea Party being a bunch of "crazies".


    Tea Partiers for the most part have policed their ranks to exclude overt racists and anti-Semites, but have trafficked in wild, Birch-flavored conspiracy theories, such as the claim that Christians are persecuted in America ...
    Is this anything like how liberals state that conservatives are waging a war on women?


    He recognized that a movement that delegitimizes its opponents as Communists and traitors is doomed to be irresponsible and ineffective.
    I agree with this. Is this much different than a movement that deligitimizes its opponents as racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic, sexist, etc?

  21. #21
    Veteran Wild Cobra's Avatar
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    WEll, the author of this article clearly has some biases, but he owns those pretty quickly.

    The thing is, Buckley would have read this guy and argued with him.

    Folks like Darrin, being closer to a radical than a conservative, refuse to do so, closing their eyes to match their minds.
    Call it what you will, but I am of a similar mindset (yes no surprise) that when I start reading something, when I see something that is clearly false, I have no desire to continue reading. That has nothing to do with how far anyone is towards an extreme. I simply don't like to read bullshit. I have better things to do with my time.

  22. #22
    Veteran DarrinS's Avatar
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    WEll, the author of this article clearly has some biases, but he owns those pretty quickly.

    The thing is, Buckley would have read this guy and argued with him.

    Folks like Darrin, being closer to a radical than a conservative, refuse to do so, closing their eyes to match their minds.


    I really don't care about all the social wedge issues. Let gays marry and legalize pot, for all I care. I just want the govt to stop spending so much money. If this makes me radical, so be it.

  23. #23
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    The premise is a "nit"? Mmmmmmmkay.


    I'm surprised you don't see the irony in the OP.


    The Birchers were paranoid about everyone being a Communist. The OP is paranoid everyone in "Today's GOP" and the Tea Party being a bunch of "crazies".




    Is this anything like how liberals state that conservatives are waging a war on women?




    I agree with this. Is this much different than a movement that deligitimizes its opponents as racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic, sexist, etc?

    Ahhh, the mote and the beam argument...how quaint.

  24. #24
    Veteran DarrinS's Avatar
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    Ahhh, the mote and the beam argument...how quaint.
    I actually had to Google that. I'm no Bible thumper.

  25. #25
    Believe. vy65's Avatar
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    Had to stop reading after this paragraph.
    I am the god of fuck, i am the god of fuck
    virgins sold in quantity, herded by heredity
    red-neck-burn-out-mid-west-mind, "who said date rape isn't kind?"
    porno-nation, evaluation
    what's this, "time for segregation"
    libido, libido fascination, too much oral defication
    white trash get down on your knees, time for cake and sodomy
    time for cake and sodomy
    (I am the god of fuck, i am the god of fuck)
    vcr's and vasoline, tv-fucked by plastic queens
    cash in hand and dick on screen, who said god was ever clean?
    bible-belt 'round anglo-waste, putting sinners in their place
    yeah, right, great if you're so good explain the shit stains on your face
    white trash get down on your knees, time for cake and sodomy
    time for cake and sodomy

  26. #26
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    I actually had to Google that. I'm no Bible thumper.
    nor am I, but I studied it for so many years in grade school, high school and college ( a classic R. Catholic education) that the stuff just comes burbling out periodically.

    Didn't mean to insult you; it just struck me that BOTH sides use the 'delegitimizing' option pretty frequently.

  27. #27
    Veteran DarrinS's Avatar
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    nor am I, but I studied it for so many years in grade school, high school and college ( a classic R. Catholic education) that the stuff just comes burbling out periodically.

    Didn't mean to insult you; it just struck me that BOTH sides use the 'delegitimizing' option pretty frequently.

    No offense taken. My in-laws are Catholic. I'm pretty sure they are disappointed (I'm being generous with that word) that I am not.

  28. #28
    Veteran DarrinS's Avatar
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    I am the god of fuck, i am the god of fuck
    virgins sold in quantity, herded by heredity
    red-neck-burn-out-mid-west-mind, "who said date rape isn't kind?"
    porno-nation, evaluation
    what's this, "time for segregation"
    libido, libido fascination, too much oral defication
    white trash get down on your knees, time for cake and sodomy
    time for cake and sodomy
    (I am the god of fuck, i am the god of fuck)
    vcr's and vasoline, tv-fucked by plastic queens
    cash in hand and dick on screen, who said god was ever clean?
    bible-belt 'round anglo-waste, putting sinners in their place
    yeah, right, great if you're so good explain the shit stains on your face
    white trash get down on your knees, time for cake and sodomy
    time for cake and sodomy

  29. #29
    The Boognish FuzzyLumpkins's Avatar
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    Darrin you close minded fuck. Hypocrisy in others is not an excuse for bad behavior. If other people steal, that does not mean that its okay for you to steal. It seems your entire ethic is based around the premise that anything gets a pass if someone else does it. Its fucking stupid.

  30. #30
    Cold-Ass Honkie RandomGuy's Avatar
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    Had to stop reading after this paragraph.
    When do you ever *start* reading?

    God forbid some actual fact or glimmer of reality that doesn't already reinforce your existing opinions make it through your filters.
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