Buckley: William F. Buckley Jr. and the Rise of American Conservatism

Carl T. Bogus, Author
Carl T. Bogus. Bloomsbury, $30 (416p) ISBN 978-1-59691-580-0
Reviewed on: 09/12/2011
Release date: 10/01/2011
Open Ebook - 978-1-60819-355-4
Paperback - 405 pages - 978-1-60819-335-6
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This thoughtful blend of biography and intellectual history harks back to a time when conservatism was dominated by proud and profound intellectualism. When William F. Buckley (1925–2008) launched the National Review in 1955, mainstream “conservatism was not merely out of favor,” but denigrated by Democrats and many Republicans as well. With Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980 and the country’s fundamental shift to the right, “the modern conservative movement finally reached the political mountaintop,” in large part thanks to Buckley’s re-articulation of the conservative agenda. Bogus (Why Lawsuits Are Good for America) charts Buckley’s ascent—the moneyed outsider who couched his blistering critique of the Eastern liberal establishment in peerless prose (“a sharp sword in a velvet scabbard”)—and his critical interventions in bringing the GOP back from the brink, for example, he was instrumental in marginalizing such fringe elements as the John Birch Society. (Bogus is markedly less admiring of Buckley’s early and strenuous opposition to the civil rights movement.) The final third of the book wobbles a bit, with summations of the cold war and the Vietnam War and a focus on lesser lights at the National Review. But despite disagreements with much of his subject’s political philosophy, Bogus vividly encapsulates how radically Buckley “changed America’s political realities... a feat so great that it is almost impossible to overstate.” (Nov.)
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