October 15, 2008
The Buckley ApostasyBy J.R. Dunn
On Friday October 10, Christopher Buckley posted a piece titled "Sorry Dad -- I'm Voting for Obama" on "The Daily Beast" announcing that he intended to do exactly that. It's worth reading if only to see how something completely obnoxious can be expressed in the most whimsical, lighthearted manner conceivable.
A cynic might ascribe this sudden apostasy to the fact that Buckley has a new book to promote. But not being cynical (at least not that much), we'll make the effort of taking him at his word.
Buckley gives a number of reasons for his gesture, ranging from the incoherent - McCain was once authentic, but now he's inauthentic! - to the asinine: "President Obama will... surely understand that traditional left-politics aren't going to get us out of this pit we've dug for ourselves." (Uhh... are you sure about that, Chris?)
These may not be the lamest reasons for casting a vote ever made public, although they're in the running. But all of them can be set aside. Because there's one theme snaking through the entire exercise, a theme we've grown used to from points northeastern over the past few weeks.
It begins, as we've come to expect, with that awful Palin woman, the one with the high heels and all the kids. Buckley has swallowed whole the libel that Palin is "unqualified" and believes it completely -- or says he does. His argument differs not an iota from that of Parker, Krauthammer, Brooks, Frum, Brookhiser, Noonan, and not to forget Rod Dreher, the world's weirdest social conservative. That is to say, there is no argument. Merely the bald, unsupported assertion and nothing else. None of these writers has put any sincere effort into making their case, and that being true of Buckley as well, we can dismiss it.
The picture grows clearer as we move on to the reason why Buckley supports Obama. It's because -- nod nod, wink wink -- he's a Harvard man. This, Buckley assures us, guarantees a first-class temperament, a first-class intelligence, and a fine taste in tailors. After that, who wouldn't switch his vote?
Once more, we're confronted with the fact that Palin, the McCain campaign, and every other given reason for the great conservative bugout of this season is a facade. This is not about ability, or competence, or anything else. It's about the elite circling their wagons to oppose an eruption from the lower depths. An eruption that may be represented by Sarah Palin but which includes you, me, and every other reader of this site.
The American social elite has always embodied pure shallowness. From the social butterflies of Henry James to Fitzgerald's Daisy Buchanan to our own Paris Hilton, we're talking about a class distinguished solely by self-centeredness, frivolity, and a truly deep-seated ignorance. Old world aristocracies from Rome to Great Britain may have been characterized by a serious attention to duty, as in Shaw's words (and I'm paraphrasing here), "A gentleman is someone given every privilege in exchange for the promise to die if called upon." But not on this side of the big pond.
Conservatism was always a phenomenon of the common people in this country, people who took tradition seriously. It would never have become of interest to the elite but for one figure -- William F. Buckley, Jr. Now that he's gone, the situation is returning to the historical norm. The common voter may act on principle; the elite will vote for whoever wears a well-chosen tie.
Son Christopher Buckley just yesterday announced he is leaving the magazine his father founded. He forgets, along with all the "conservatives' now crowding the exits, is that when you pull the lever, you're not just voting for a man, or even a party, you're voting for a worldview.
The Obama worldview accepts and condones Bill Ayers, ACORN, Rashid Khalidi, Jeremiah Wright, and Raila Odinga, to mention only a few out of the menagerie that Obama has presented us. (Isn't strange how liberal leaders always seem to be leading around a carnival sideshow? Think of FDR's crew -= Howe, Hopkins, White, Tugwell, Stettinius, Hiss, Wallace, to mention only a few. Then move onto the Carter clan. Then Bill Clinton's admiration society. And we're supposed to disdain Sarah Plain?) When you pull that lever, you're also pulling it for them -- there's no way to deny it, the entanglement is simply too great.
And you're pulling it for something else as well.
Over the past fifty years, something on the order of a half-million Americans -- that is to say 500,000 of our friends and neighbors -- have been killed by liberal policies. This is not hyperbole, this is not exaggeration; it is a cold statement of fact. By my own calculations, up to 260,000 people died prematurely due to the criminal justice "reform" of the 50s and 60s. Studies have shown that up to 121,000 died thanks to the CAFE standards mandating gasoline miles-per-gallon for cars, and as of last year, trucks as well. Several thousand children have been killed after falling into the hands of various state child "protective" agencies. Thousands have fallen victim to assorted environmental regulations. And we could go on to FDA drug regulations, AIDS policy, immigration policy to the point of delirium. Throwing in DDT and various foreign policy fiascos raises the numbers by several orders of magnitude. We'll put abortion aside for the moment.
These are all liberal policies. They were put in place to serve liberal purposes and meet liberal goals. All were essentially unnecessary, and were as catastrophic as any dozen Katrinas. It would require a book to encompass the topic, which is why I've written one.
So liberalism is not only mistaken, not only flawed, it is deadly. It is a lethal threat to the commonwealth, to the American people, and in the end, to you and your own. If you vote for Obama, or any other liberal politician, you are in a real sense voting to continue these policies in all their lethality -- if not to put into effect an entire new batch.
How can such policies be justified in dealing with fellow citizens, with countrymen, with one's neighbors? They can't. But liberals have never thought of the rest of the country in that sense. A basic element of left-liberal thought is that they are not in fact Americans, but something else, something separate and superior. Too many conservatives have adapted that way of thinking. It will lead them along the same path, to meet at the same bleak place, a blasted landscape embedded in darkness. But that is not our way, and we need never pay attention to them ever again.
Buckley in and of himself is not important. But the symbolism of his act is. Only a few months after WFB, Jr. dies, here's his son pledging support to an individual at polar opposite to everything the old man stood for and leaving his magazine. It provides a suitable cap for the collapse of the northeastern conservative elite. These are William F. Buckley's own people, his crowd, many of whom he knew, some of whom he trained. And yet, in the clearest contest between conservatism and leftism since the Reagan era, they are turning tail one after the other.
Times change, and all things move toward their end. A certain style of conservatism is coming to its end amid this election season. Another style remains. Reform of American conservatism in our time has always come out of the West. It's happening again today. In the past, urban conservatives served to analyze and interpret such events for the benefit of the rest of us. That no longer appears to be the case. But we'll manage somehow.
J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker.