William Rusher, the great former publisher of National Review, likes to say, “The thing about politicians is that they always let you down.”
Has his axiom ever seemed more apt? It’s almost gotten to the point where it’s a good day for the Republican party when someone isn’t raided by the FBI or busted for some lewd act or another.
We’ve been reminded over the last couple of years of how essential conservative leadership is to the GOP — that is, the leadership of conservative outsiders, the magazines, columnists, talk radio hosts, bloggers, think tanks, and intellectuals who develop the ideas and arguments that inevitably filter down to the party.
We are the ones who have to guard our principles, because there aren’t many politicians who are going to do it for us, at least not until they build their bridges to nowhere and craft their grand amnesty deals and try to find a way to compromise away the progress we’ve made in Iraq.
So, in this time of conservative discontent, my pitch to you — yes, that’s where this is headed — is National Review Online, now more than ever.
Now more than ever, we need the devotion to principle, the robust intra-conservative debate, the hour-by-hour reporting and analysis from the campaign trail and Capitol Hill, the willingness to stand athwart nonsense and yell “stop” that you find at NRO.
There are stories about the influence of National Review Online that we hear almost every day, but we had a dramatic illustration of it during the amnesty debate this year. NRO – together with our friends on talk radio and in the blogosphere — has what gun enthusiasts call “stopping power.” We have the ability to block really bad ideas advocated by Republicans, and hasn’t that been pretty handy lately?
On Iraq, we’ve gone through stretches where almost every day a Senate Republican has floated some nonsensical halfway measure on the war, and we’ve slapped them all down.
Of course, we don’t just police the GOP, but subject liberalism to the intellectual scouring — and often the scourging — that it deserves. And this too is necessary more than ever.
Some conservatives comfort themselves with thoughts of how beatable Hillary Clinton will be in a general election with her high negatives. Don’t buy it. She’s shrewd, careful, and tough. Liberalism probably couldn’t have a more effective advocate next year.
We’re talking Bill and Hillary Clinton circa 1992, when they ran a great campaign and hewed as closely as they could to the center, rather than Bill and Hillary Clinton circa 1993-1994, when they really let their liberalism show and were wobbly and ineffectual in office. We may see that version of the Clinton duo again if she’s elected, but probably not until then.
Then, there’s the possibility that Clinton picks Barack Obama as her running-mate, in which case many secular liberal journalists will believe that they’ve encountered the Second Coming. The coverage will be so biased it will make Dan Rather look like a model of Olympian objectivity.
All of this means that we have to be on the top of our game, that we have to be able to pick apart politically seductive but noxious ideas and respond instantly to the latest obfuscations and dishonesties in the press coverage and the campaign. As I said, now more then ever.
That’s why I’m hoping you can contribute something to our cause.
I can already anticipate the e-mails, “Rich, why are you begging for money when you people believe in the free market and the profit motive?”
Well, let me say a few things to that. First, advertisers do not naturally flock to small-circulation publications that make it their business to take controversial positions. If they did, opinion journalism would be a profitable business, and it hasn’t been and probably never will be.
Two, we do all that we can to make money. We have a dedicated advertising staff that sells ads for NRO, and ad revenue has been going up, but it’s not enough to cover our operating expenses.
Three, we do all that we can to limit expenses. We squeeze every penny, and have just moved into smaller office space to save money.
But the most important point is, as William F. Buckley Jr. says, “National Review exists to make a point, not a profit.” It is our calling to spread the word as much as possible. So we are constantly looking for ways to expand and to improve our analysis and reporting. Which is why you’ve noticed new reporters around here, and you’ll see more video and audio features.
NR, the print magazine, has depended on its readers to support it over the years via the fund appeal letter WFB famously wrote annually to subscribers. The fundraising week on NRO is the digital equivalent of that. Except — if you don’t mind an appeal to your guilty conscience — if you only read NRO, you should feel more of an obligation to contribute. NR readers are already contributing to the magazine through the price of a subscription. Whereas you can read NRO for free.
Don’t get me wrong. We’re delighted that you read us and would never want to turn away readers by charging for NRO, but we hope you’ll realize that we can’t do this for free. We have to pay for editors, writers, tech staff, rent, bandwidth, and all the rest of it.
So, please, if you can, contribute something today. We need your help. Now more than ever.