William F. Buckley Jr.: The Maker of a Movement
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“If you want to understand not only the rise of the modern conservative movement but also how conservatives can regain their footing during these perilous times, you must read William F. Buckley Jr.: The Maker of a Movement. Lee Edwards, himself a conservative icon, describes in beautiful and concise prose the brilliance that was Buckley. The book, like Buckley, is fascinating, compelling, and edifying.”
—Mark R. Levin, bestselling author of Liberty and Tyranny, nationally syndicated radio host
“Who: William F. Buckley Jr. What: Changing American political and intellectual culture. When: 1925–2008. Where: Postwar Yale, China with Mao and Nixon, the NR conference room table. How: Lee Edwards, who knew the principles and lived the history, explains it all in this compact, complete synopsis.”
—Richard Brookhiser, author of Right Time, Right Place: Coming of Age with William F. Buckley Jr. and the Conservative Movement
The modern-day Renaissance man who forged the conservative movement
The polysyllabic vocabulary, the wit, the charm, the sailing adventures, the spy novels—all of these have become part of the William F. Buckley Jr. legend. But to consider only Buckley’s charisma and ceaseless energy is to miss that above all he was committed to advancing ideas.
Now, noted conservative historian Lee Edwards, who knew Bill Buckley for more than forty years, delivers a much-needed intellectual biography of the man has been called “arguably the most important public intellectual in the United States in the past half century.” In this concise and compelling book, Edwards reveals how Buckley did more than any other person to build the conservative movement. Once derided as a set of “irritable mental gestures,” conservatism became, under Buckley’s guidance, a political and intellectual force that transformed America.
As conservatives debate the ideas that should drive their movement, William F. Buckley Jr.: The Maker of a Movementreminds us of the principles that animated Buckley, as well as the thinkers who inspired him. The four most important intellectual influences on this great molder of American conservatism, Edwards shows, were libertarian author and social critic Albert Jay Nock, conservative political scientist Willmoore Kendall, former Soviet spy Whittaker Chambers, and realpolitik apostle James Burnham. Having dug deep into the voluminous Buckley papers, Edwards also illuminates the profound influence of Buckley’s close-knit family and his unwavering Catholic faith.
Edwards brilliantly captures the free spirit and unbounded energy of the conservative polymath, but he also shows that Buckley did not succeed merely on the strength of a winning personality. Rather, Buckley’s achievements were the result of a long series of quite deliberate political acts—many of them overlooked today.
William F. Buckley Jr.: The Maker of a Movementtells the incredible story of a man who could have been a playboy, sailing his yacht and skiing in Switzerland, but who chose to be the St. Paul of the conservative movement, carrying the message far and wide. Lee Edwards shows how and why it happened—and the remarkable results.
honoring and integrating the conflicting voices of the conservative choir. And because one and all realized, eventually, that they were part of something historic—what Buckley would come to call “our movement.”1 But first Buckley had to raise an estimated $ 550,000 (equal to $ 4.4 million in 2010) to underwrite the costs of the magazine until it had a sufficient number of subscribers and advertisers. The young editor-in-chief-to-be went calling on wealthy conservatives in the Midwest, the Deep
senatorial victory in 1952 and had done research and some speechwriting for the senator ever since. In the end, Buckley’s proposal at the September 1963 meeting to form a group of leading academics who would counsel Goldwater on public policy was blocked by the man who already had the senator’s ear and was determined to share it with no one else—William Baroody, the president (on leave) of the American Enterprise Institute. Although Goldwater later claimed that he would have welcomed them,
microphone was dead, and the control room at the rear of the hall was locked. As the audience grew increasingly restive at the delay of the program, Reagan decided to take remedial action. The future president walked to the side of the hall and looked through the window at the ledge running the length of the building some two stories above traffic. He slipped out the window and with his back to the wall sidestepped carefully on the parapet toward the control-room window. Reaching it, he broke
about the same time, Buckley announced his retirement from the lecture circuit, although he continued to speak—without a fee—before conservative organizations like the Philadelphia Society, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, and National Review. In June 2004, he relinquished his controlling shares of NR to a preselected board of trustees: his son, Christopher; Thomas L. (Dusty) Rhodes, the magazine’s president; Ed Capano, the publisher; Evan Galbraith, his old sailing friend from Yale and
in writing the book. “I would go to bed tired each night and come down for breakfast at eight each morning, and he would already be up in the study, attacking the next chapter, Bach on the stereo, sailboats bobbing in the water down below.” (They worked in a rented house in Bermuda.) When the young man remarked how nice it must be, doing the things he loved, Buckley quickly corrected him. He found writing increasingly difficult. Nor did he love politics, which he said was awash in sordidness and