I get the impression that the writer of “Buckley and Conservatism” fancies himself an intellectual elite, but he is really too young to remember Buckley (and Reagan, for that matter).
Apparently, conservatives, as is the case of artists, must die before they are recognized as great. First Reagan, and now William F. Buckley, were suddenly recognized as the intellectual forces that they were, once they were dead. But I remember Reagan and Buckley while they were in their prime. Liberals back then did not fawn over them and respect them. Instead, liberals treated them the same way they treat Rush Limbaugh, George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, hell–the same way they treat any individual who disagrees with them–with contempt and disgust as they attacked them personally and as they attacked their ideas. So spare me this crap about how Buckley was buddy-buddy with all the liberals.
Likewise, Reagan was attacked almost as mercilessly as George Bush. He was called a cowboy, crazy, and an idiot. Don’t let the way he was treated as a Saint after his death fool you, if you were too young (or too old) to remember how he was treated during his lifetime in office. Liberals despised Reagan.
Both Buckley and Reagan were civil to their adversaries, but their adversaries by and large refused to reciprocate. And while Buckley towards the end of his life was treated with more respect, the main reason in my opinion was because he never ran for elected office. The liberals never felt the need to attack Buckley as they do Republican politicians. Proof? They attacked Reagan more the older he got.
Personally, I am insulted when you say that there are no principles, no connectivity to the conservatism of Reagan. Bunk. Are social conservatives exactly like Reagan? No. If anything, they are Reagan plus. I’ll grant you that Reagan did not fight the social issues that we fight today. But he did not have to fight them. Abortion was the only social issue that he confronted back then, and there was nothing that could be done except the nomination of Justices that could make a difference. Why do I fight the social issues today? Because that is where the battle is raging.
I do agree with you on one point about Reagan: Conservatives “praise him to the stars.” Reagan was not perfect. He talked a good game and often failed to deliver. He cut taxes but failed to cut spending and bureaucracy.
But a main thrust of your argument seems to be that Rush Limbaugh is not “the spear” of conservatism. Yeah? Reagan was accused of mouthing platitudes and of being guilty of shallow thinking in his day, too. Rush is not perfect, but right now, he is the best we have. In his prime, Buckley did not command the audience Rush does. And while Rush oft times blunders into giving his enemies ammunition to use against him, he errs on the side of using plain words that his followers can understand. If Rush and Buckley were leading troops up the hill, Rush would yell: “Take the hill!” While Rush’s troops were taking the hill, Buckley would give a discourse for 15 minutes using impressive grammar and $10 words.
I, too, long for a conservative politician such as Reagan who will rally the troops, re-assemble the coalition, and lead the Republican party to greatness. But I fear that too many idiots have become voters since then. I doubt that Reagan could win today in these circumstances. Millions have immigrated (and now vote) who naturally side with the party who will give them goodies. Millions more have grown up being bombarded with the idea that the Government is the solution, not the problem. Perhaps others have forgotten but I haven’t that the Reagan landslide in his first Presidential election never materialized until the last couple of weeks. Reagan almost lost to the universally despised Jimmy Carter. Think about that!
And finally, the mere wording of your question rankles me:
“Why cannot social conservatives (read Huckabee and many others like Dobson) engage in a cooperative coalition with the likes of those who agree on some issues–like Giuliani?” Let’s turn it around, shall we? Why can’t those who disagree with “social conservatives” engage in a cooperative coalition with the social conservatives? The first thing Guiliani did after withdrawing was to endorse McCain. Social conservatives have been rallying the troops to get out the vote for years, yet it is always a one-way street. Social conservatives vote for the libertarian wing or the moderate wing of the Republican party, with pats on the head and promises of getting a bone thrown their way occasionally. But when a social conservative is on the ticket, the libertarians and moderates are harder to find at the voting booth than bin Laden. You wonder why people like me despise moderate and libertarian Republicans? It is because people like me have been thrown under the bus one too many times. The very wording of your question echoes what moderates and the libertarians are always whining “gimme gimme gimme!” But they never reciprocate.
Even the very idea of blaming the social conservatives for the loss of the most recent elections shows gross ignorance of history and of current events. Republicans ran the most moderate Republican Senator. We did not lose because he was too conservative, we lost because the idiots in the middle believed Obama’s lies during the campaign that he really wasn’t the radical that the conservatives portrayed him to be. [Not to mention that McCain ran an inept campaign and was a pathetic candidate.] And McCain lost because there really wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between most of the policies of McCain and of Obama, so many “independent’s” figured why not go with the Democrat instead of the Democrat-lite?
I confess, I am one of those naive waifs who sees strong parallels between this most recent election and the 1976 election. Reagan nearly won the nomination, but lost to the “moderates” and the country club Republicans. But no Republican could have won that year, so close to the resignation of Nixon, just as any Republican would have great difficulty this year, so close to the failed Presidency of GW. And then the country got Jimmy Carter and four years of malaise. Obama’s policies will fail, and the people will wake up and realize that they have been duped. The question is, will the Republican party be ready? Or will the party be too busy fighting, blaming our defeat on the “social conservatives”?