William F Buckley Jr, The intellectual voice that inspired many and created a vanguard in conservative politics with his writing, commentary, and advocacy, died today at his Connecticut estate. He was 82 years of age.
The cause of death is not yet specific, however Buckley was afflicted by diabetes and emphysema.
Buckley was born in New York in 1925, to a wealthy family in the oil business. The bulk of his education was at boarding schools in Europe.
Following a brief stint in the Army, he attended Yale and eventually authored his first book God and Man at Yale in 1951. In it he was critical of what he saw as a liberal culture at Yale and in the world of academia.
Eloquent speaking, skilled debater, and great intellectual capacity were tools Buckley used in pushing a new brand of conservatism that went beyond the more outdated and stale pre-New Deal paleo-Conservatism. He was a strong defender of anti-communist demagogue and U.S Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin), who made accusations and carried out public hearings accusing many prominent figures and political opponents of being communists seeking to overthrow the United states.
In 1955 he made what was perhaps his chief contribution to the conservative political movement, when he and partner established the conservative publication the National Review. The National Review would become an intellectual island of sort for conservatives in an America and era that still was fond of the New Deal Era liberalism. But Buckley with his charm, illustrious body of vocabulary, and command of the facts was one of the few conservatives to be taken seriously as an intellectual, and not a gadfly in the mold of the John Birch Society, which he was once associated with but later rejected.
In the 1960s Buckley began a syndicated newspaper column that still ran up until his death. Later in that decade, Buckley entered the still fairly new arena of television (even getting into a very caustic public argument with liberal academic Gore Vidal), by providing political commentary. In 1969, he began his three decades long run as host of the PBS political talk show “Firing Line”, where he interacted with a number of guests including Noam Chomsky and poet Allen Ginsberg, always able to probe deeply in an interview but at the same time have a gracious sense of humor about him.
Buckley’s reach was however not merely in the words of commentary, but also in national government. It was the Buckley style conservatism that had some presence in the 1964 Republican nomination of firebrand conservative Senator Barry Goldwater (R-Arizona) who would later go on to be trounced in the general election to then President Lyndon Baines Johnson. But it was the same Buckley pedigree of conservatism that helped Richard Nixon capture the White House in 1968.
Although Nixon was less conservative and more centrist then Buckley, Nixon’s presidency and Buckley’s influence would later lay the foundation for the organizing of the conservative wing that would reach its political apex in the 1980s and 1990s, with the election of Ronald Reagan as President and in 1994 the taking of the House of Representatives and senate for the first time since 1954.
Despite his retirement from the post of editor of National Review in 1990, Buckley kept writing. Over the course of his career he dabbled in both non-fiction and fiction. He also continued to author his weekly syndicated column.
When he died, Buckley was in the process of authoring a forthcoming book about Barry Goldwater.
News of Buckley’s death got reaction everywhere from ex-first lady Nancy Reagan, ex-speaker of the U.S House Representatives and Conservative guru Newt Gingrich(R-GA), as well as radio shock jock Rush Limbaugh, and of course the staff at the National Review.