Writers Parse Buckley's Legacy

What ended his brand of conservatism—or does it endure?
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 28, 2008 3:36 PM CST

(Newser) – William F. Buckley Jr. was a titan on the political scene, carving out his own brand of conservatism. But one day after his death, writers differ on his legacy:

  • At Slate, Timothy Noah notes Buckley’s more noxious stances—defending segregationists and Joe McCarthy—and says it’s good fortune “Buckley’s man Ronald Reagan” didn’t accomplish goals of turning back civil-rights law and shrinking government. George W. Bush’s ascendance thankfully marked a return to Republicanism at peace with the New Deal.

  • Buckley biographer John Judis writes in the New Republic the late conservative went far on “gentleness and consideration,” managing to “fancy” himself anti-establishment while being a pragmatist and everyone’s friend. But Judis says Buckley’s vision died not because old-school Republicanism was reborn but rather because the religious right came to Washington.
  • Joe Lieberman, writing in the National Review, remembers winning Buckley’s support in his 1998 Senate race. He says the dynamo was so impressive because he “rejected extremism” and built a “modern American conservative moment” that “wasn’t necessarily a Republican movement.”