William F. Buckley, Jr., 1925-2008

“He might have been working on a column.”

So said Christopher Buckley of the Wednesday passing of his father–and godfather of the conservative movement–William F. Buckley, Jr.

To sum up William F. Buckley’s contribution to conservative thought and victory, and thus to America herself, would require the wit, wisdom, intellect, and vocabulary of the man himself. I shan’t even try; I’ll just offer a few thoughts instead.

Like all movements, the conservative movement has its icons, and regular readers of this blog will have discerned that the best known of these icons–Ronald Reagan–is one of my personal heroes.

But even as great a man as Ronald Reagan would likely never have become president if not for the influence of William F. Buckley, Jr.

That’s because the conservative movement, which Ronald Reagan shaped and led, is, at its deepest roots, an intellectual movement. Its beliefs are founded in truth, as best we can understand it. And its policies are grounded in ideas, not slogans; in what makes sense, not what feels good; in what wisdom shows works, not what wishfulness insists should work.

It was William F. Buckley who built much of conservatism’s intellectual foundation in the middle of the 20th century and who helped Americans understand it for the rest of his life. Through his columns, through the magazine National Review, through his program “Firing Line”, Mr. Buckley brought conservative ideas to the American mind and mainstream.

Now that he’s gone from us, his ouvre can continue to nurture the legacy he leaves of an intellectual conservative movement.

But I sure wish we had that final column.

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