You wouldn’t think that I’d be steeped in liberalism growing up in Lubbock, Texas, where Mitt Romney and Ted Cruz each took about 70 percent of the vote in 2012, where the Democrats didn’t even bother to put up a candidate against conservative’s conservative Representative Randy Neugebauer in the same election (though he did cede 18 percent of the vote to the Libertarian party candidate) or compete at all in many of the down-ballot elections, and where Republicans’ biggest political challenge of late is satisfying critics on the right rather than dealing with Team Jackass.
But you would be wrong. Even in those few happy places where conservatives can prevail politically, the Left owns the culture. The mighty Lubbock Avalanche-Journal had wall-to-wall coverage of Friday-night lights, but its national and international news came mostly from the Associated Press, as is the case for most U.S. daily newspapers, which means some of the worst economics writing and biased political reporting you can find. At my high school, American history began with the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, reached its apex with the New Deal, and ended with Watergate. Capitalism was unmitigated greed, Reagan was the Antichrist, and what appeared to the unenlightened to be an age of possibility and prosperity was in fact the prelude to environmental apocalypse and the virtual enslavement of the American worker. And if that was the witches’ brew of lies and nonsense I was being dunked in daily in Lubbock, who knows what they were enduring in some comparatively liberal metropolis such as Albuquerque?
I was a National Review reader for 20-odd years before I had the great good fortune of becoming a National Review writer. It was, I should note, a very strange job interview: I felt like I had known Rich, Jay, and Kathryn for years (Jonah wasn’t there; presumably he was engaged in an intense dialogue on the subject of spontaneous orders with The Couch), and William F. Buckley Jr. was one of the main reasons I decided to become a writer. (Lack of useful skills was another important one.) With apologies to the University of Texas, National Review was my real higher education: Every time I came across a name or an idea that was unfamiliar to me — Hayek, Mises, Kirk, public-choice theory, regulatory capture — I had a new assignment. National Review was a gift, and, like many gifts, it carried with it implicit reciprocity, the obligation to live up to the conversation. The fruits of that labor were very sweet: My professors, and, later, my editors at the various newspapers where I worked, all knew what the New York Times had to say about income inequality; I knew what the New York Times had to say about income inequality, too — and I knew why it was wrong.
Things have changed radically since I first encountered National Review. What was a fortnightly journal that reached a couple hundred thousand people is now a 24-hour news service, offering up-to-the-minute commentary, more audio content than most talk-radio shows, video you won’t find anywhere else, newsletters, and everything from books to tweets, reaching millions of people — along with that aforementioned fortnightly journal. As our publisher, Jack Fowler, mentioned earlier, sometimes our readers like to come by and visit NR World HQ, and their reaction is almost always the same: “Good Lord but this place is a dump.” Buckley Towers turns out to be a relatively low-key and low-ceilinged cubicle farm occupying some unused space in a building housing a branch of Yeshiva University. (God knows what it costs, though.) What it most resembles is the offices of my old college newspaper, except that it isn’t in a basement, doesn’t have a printing press, and works on a smaller operating budget. And that is how it should be. My job title here is “roving correspondent,” and I can tell you that if I were to attempt to rove business-class at National Review’s expense, the people whom Jonah calls “the Suits,” who are actually a few no-nonsense ladies who will yell at you in Russian and a few old gangsters Jack knows from growing up in the Bronx, then my WFB-approved vocabulary word of the day would be “defenestration.” National Review roves coach. Jack spends more time dealing with plumbing than any other publisher of a national magazine outside of American Plumber, I guarantee you.
The challenge for us is marrying the intellectual conservatism of WFB to a content machine in which our timeline is measured in minutes rather than weeks; we do it on a shoestring budget, but, even so, the bill for twine, duct tape, and WD-40 is pretty staggering. But we are making a difference. Ask Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, or the members of the House budget committee who very politely listened to me yell at them about how Washington is destroying the country. Ask Rand Paul, whose celebrated filibuster included a fair amount of content straight off of National Review Online. You might even ask, if you could, some of the men and women languishing in Cuban and Chinese prison cells, who have no more energetic or articulate spokesman than Jay Nordlinger, even as the rest of the media often is inclined to look the other way at the human-rights abuses of leftist regimes.
I am deeply grateful to those of you who have supported me by supporting National Review in the past. It is an honor and a pleasure to contribute as I can to continuing a tradition that includes writers and thinkers as different as George Will and Whittaker Chambers, John Dos Passos, Henry Hazlitt, and Father Richard Neuhaus. Recently, I’ve taken on some new responsibilities with our William F. Buckley journalism fellowship, to help ensure that the future of that tradition lives up to its past. I look forward to Monday mornings, which is one of life’s great luxuries. But even if this weren’t my job, I’d still be imploring you to support National Review. I could get a new job, but National Review is irreplaceable.
— Kevin D. Williamson is roving correspondent for National Review.