“Middle-of-the-Road, qua Middle of the Road, is politically, intellectually, and morally repugnant. We shall recommend policies for the simple reason that we consider them right (rather than “non-controversial”); and we consider them right because they are based on principles we deem right (rather than on popularity polls)…”
Bill Buckley, the son of an oil baron, was born to wealth and privilege. He was a lieutenant in the Army from 1943 until 1945 when he entered Yale and became a member of Skull and Bones, along with future President George H.W. Bush. In 1953 Buckley became prominent for his book “God and Man at Yale”. So when he founded the National Review he was already prominent in Conservative circles. Oh yes, it should be mentioned he was a CIA field agent under E. Howard Hunt, from 1951 through 1953.
“George H. Nash, a historian of the modern American conservative movement, believed that Buckley was “arguably the most important public intellectual in the United States in the past half century… For an entire generation, he was the preeminent voice of American conservatism and its first great ecumenical figure.” Buckley’s primary contribution to politics was a fusion of traditional American political conservatism with laissez-faire economic theory and anti-communism, laying groundwork for the new American conservatism of U.S. presidential candidates Barry Goldwater and President Ronald Reagan“.
Whether you like the National Review or not, you must admit that it is the single most important magazine of the Conservative movement in America and has been so since its’ founding. As you can see from their mission statement above, they claim to eschew popularity and polls, serving “higher principles“. However, this story which is representative of much of the dealings of this magazine of “higher principles“ calls into question their true dedication to “higher principles“ , or perhaps one of their principles is merely naked greed?
A story by Lee Fang, an investigative reporter dealt with cash donations given to the National Review, by PhRMA the lobbying entity of the pharmaceutical industry: National Review Buoyed By Drug Lobbyist Cash. The story discloses that PhRMA gave the National Review Institute $205,000 in 2009. This institute is the non-profit that supports the magazine. This amount constituted about one third of the institute’s income in 2009.
“The time period in which PhRMA made its contribution coincided with helpful political attacks emanating from the pages of the National Review. The National Review took a leading role demonizing a cost-saving proposal from the Obama administration that could diminish millions, if not billions, in pharmaceutical company profits. In 2009, President Obama fought to deliver reform by cutting some of the waste out of the health care system. His first signature accomplishment, the stimulus, contained some initial funding of Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER). CER would set up an independent body to develop a system to find the best medical outcomes, and in doing so, save up to $700 billion by some estimates in annual health spending. PhRMA recognized quickly that CER would most likely steer medical professional towards prescribing more generic medications over branded drugs, thus slicing a sizable share of corporate profits“.
PhRMA also launched at series of attack ads at this time all aimed at ensuring that the government not put in place these restraints on their huge profits. This is a sad, yet telling tale, of the real motives behind the modern Conservative movement, as exemplified by its most respected institution.
The thrust of the article demonstrates intertwining of the modern Conservative movement with the needs of the most powerful corporations. Going back to the quote from conservative historian Nash above:” Buckley’s primary contribution to politics was a fusion of traditional American political conservatism with laissez-faire economic theory” we can see the changes that have been made to old fashioned American conservative belief by this overlay of a doctrine of corporate laissez-faire. For 61 years the National Review has gradually reshaped Conservative thought from one of protection of the founding principles of this country into a pro-corporate rooting section. As the world’s economy has evolved, this pro-corporate stance has further evolved into a pro-multinational corporate stance. In essence this movement no longer focuses on the needs of the United State of America, but instead caters to the “Captains” of “The New World Order”.
It might be noticed that nowhere above did I use the term business. This was intentional on my part because I’d like to make the further point that the modern Conservative movement is essentially an anti-business operation. In order for Capitalism to be a workable economic system it requires a dynamic market. The dynamics must mean that people with ideas, entrepreneurs if you will, must be free to enter the market at even a rudimentary level and thus be free to succeed or fail, based on the novelty of their innovation and/or the quality of product and/or service they deliver. When one talks of businesses and markets it should include the entire spectrum of the marketplace, not just those corporations who have become gigantic by absorbing less wealthy entities. The multi-national corporations by their nature stifle a free marketplace and in truth inhibit rapid innovation wherever they can.
This is the change that Bill Buckley has wrought, an American movement whose leaders no longer strive to uplift their country. Though to be charitable, I’m not sure he foresaw where the movement he set in motion was going, in the end he must share the damnation. This damnation that is responsible for the decline of this country, the uplifting of a Multi-National Corporate Empire and the resurgence of Fascism as a political model.
The two 20th Century Fascist models that should be looked at for modern comparisons are Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. In both countries the idea of a strong authoritarian leader, spouting nationalistic jingoism and fear of outsiders, was paired with an unseemly favoritism and deference towards wealthy oligarchs and their economic dealings. Indeed both the rise of Hitler and the rise of Mussolini, were sponsored by some of their country’s wealthiest elite. The policies of those two Fascist governments created an interdependence between the government and oligarchic wealth. The leading model for this 20th century style Fascism today can be found in Putin and his Russian Republic. Vladimir Putin, morphed fro a KGB Intelligence officer into the supreme leader of Russia. In the meantime he took the equivalent of a $100,000 a year salary and somehow became worth up to $40 billion personally. Russia is a country where the Oligarchs of various industrial bases hold sway and are dealt with in a laissez-faire manner. It is no coincidence that through his many actions and statements Trump has defended and nurtured Putin, extolling him as a great leader.
As in Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy and Putin’s Russia we see a Trump Administration which is composed of American Oligarchs and minions. This Administration’s stated goals are to lower business taxes, eliminate business and environmental regulations, eliminate inheritances taxes. In short the same concept of laissez-faire economic theory that Buckley infused into the Conservative Movement. No doubt many Buckley apologists would protest the assertion of his Fascism but let’s look at his record.
Buckley opposed the Civil Rights movement in terms that disparaged Black people for lacking the capacity to take equal part in government:
”Since the 1950s, Buckley had argued that civil rights should be opposed not because black people were biologically inferior to white people, but because they were not yet “civilized” enough to take part in democratic government. Or, as Buckley put it in 1959, “There are no scientific grounds for assuming congenital Negro disabilities. The problem is not biological, but cultural and educational.” Here.
When it came to aspect of democracy when it comes to voting Buckley:
” ………was sometimes forced to admit that, in his view, all uneducated people, black, white, brown, red, or yellow, should not be allowed to vote if they didn’t pass some sort of competency test. This was an undemocratic stance to say the least, but at least it was consistent with his idea that only “civilized” people should rule.
As he pushed this line of thought in the pages of National Review, Buckley argued that no one knew what levels of education should be mandatory to participate in a democracy better than local arbiters. Thus, for Buckley, the federal government had no business declaring equal access when it couldn’t differentiate between uneducated black people in Alabama and black graduates of Harvard.”…………
”In 1957, Buckley wrote National Review’s most infamous editorial, entitled “Why the South Must Prevail.” Is the white community in the South, he asked, “entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically?” His answer was crystal clear: “The sobering answer is Yes—the White community is so entitled because for the time being, it is the advanced race.” Buckley cited unfounded statistics demonstrating the superiority of white over black, and concluded that, “it is more important for any community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numerical majority.” He added definitively: “the claims of civilization supersede those of universal suffrage.”
And what method should be used to enforce the maintenance of “civilized standards”? According to Buckley, it should be a no-holds-barred defense, even including violence. “Sometimes,” he wrote, “it becomes impossible to assert the will of a minority, in which case it must give way, and the society will regress; sometimes the numerical [white] minority cannot prevail except by violence: then it must determine whether the prevalence of its will is worth the terrible price of violence. In other words, it was up to the white community to decide when violence was appropriate.” Here
Buckley’s bigotry was not just limited to people of color, it seems he and his magazine often took positions cozy with anti-semites and NAZI’s. Like our new President, Buckley’s father hated Jews and was partial to Fascists:
”As John Judis documents in his 1988 biography of Buckley, the conservative pundit’s father and namesake, William F. Buckley Sr., was an anti-Semite and fascist sympathizer who tried his best to pass along his ideas to his large brood. In 1937, four of the Buckley kids burned a cross outside a Jewish resort. The eleven-year-old William Buckley Jr. didn’t participate in the cross burning but only because he was deemed too young to participate and by his own account “wept tears of frustration” at being left out of the hate crime. At this point the young Buckley agreed with his father’s worldview, and would argue, in the words of a childhood friend, that “Bolshevik Russia was an infinitely greater threat than Nazi Germany.” The Spanish fascist leader Francisco Franco was a hero in the Buckley household, celebrated as a bulwark against the red menace.” National Review’s Bad Conscience
That article in the New Republic goes on to cite chapter and verse of incidents where Buckley and the National Review were sympathetic to Fascists and also seemed hostile to Jews. Curious in many respects, is that Buckley’s close friend, the sometime holocaust denier and Jew hater, Pat Buchanan, also came from a family where the father admired Fascists, particularly Francisco Franco. Buckley publicly admitted that his friend Buchanan hated Jews and even went so far as to defend Hitler in a column titled “Did Hitler Want War?”.
Now it is probable William F. Buckley never thought of himself as a Fascist, after all he did serve in the military in World War II. Buckley despite his pretended erudition and large vocabulary was no great thinker as shown by his apoplectic anger when confounded by real intellects like James Baldwin and Gore Vidal. He was a man who obviously was so enamored with his own pre-judgments that he lacked any insight into his own sensitivities. What Buckley did though in his founding of the National Review was to develop a ”House Organ” of the American Conservative movement. A magazine that while claiming pristine intellectualism, we see is merely open to the highest Right Wing bidder. Buckley’s and the magazine’s defense of racism, laissez faire capitalism and an elitist view of the democratic process has spent 61 years laying the groundwork for Trump Fascism. While they try to distance themselves because of its populist (read lower class) patina, they still bear much of the blame for the Fascist Trump.