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By Anonymous Mike, pseudonymously.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008
WFB and Me

I was a little late to the William F. Buckley party.

No it wasn't because I had some sort of radical phase or that; if I did it must have been over by the 6th grade. Rather it was because I started on my political road backwards. I was introduced to conservatism through Reagan and then in reading history, I became aware of Goldwater. It was only later, much later, reading through my brother's copies of National Review that I got to know Mr. Buckley.

Even then it took a long time to understand his impact. Sure I "knew" how he was one of, if not the, founding lights of modern American conservatism but I didn't understand his special genius till much later.

I was at a board meeting on a college campus and being bored to tears I took advantage of an incoming cell phone call to go out for an extended walk. I ended up in the library and as I wandered the shelves my eye fell on Buckley's "God and Man at Yale." It had been decades since I had read it, I was in no rush to get back, and so I sat down with it and began to read.

That's when the special genius of Buckley hit me, the genius of a pioneer.

At the time Buckley wrote the book, American political thought was dominated by the ideas of progressive statism and the New Deal. Conservatism, if it registered on the national radar screen at all, was delineated as reactionary or Tory; the idea that even after the moment of Creation a conservative would want to revert to what was before.

Buckley changed that. He not only changed conservatism by fusing it with elements of libertarianism, by making it international in foreign policy, he changed it by making conservatism a positive and active force in American political life. Without Buckley standing up against the tide in the 1950s and seeing a future that was different than the present, there would have been no Reagan.

It's simple to look at a landscape and improve it here and there It takes something else to look at a landscape and not only imagine something completely different but to articulate that vision and help make it happen. Through his genius, his vision, and his grace (take some time to read the tributes from the other side of the political aisle) he was an American original.