Politics & Policy

WFB in St. Paul

A living legacy.

St. Paul – I waited and waited and waited here for the tribute. Shouldn’t William F. Buckley Jr. get a few words of thanks for his service to our nation, and for making the Republican party a better party, through his writing, criticism, encouragement, debates, friendships, and example?

If Ronald Reagan were alive, I suspect he would have insisted on it, having benefited so thoroughly from Bill’s contributions.

But even if they didn’t take the time to explicitly thank WFB, they did him a tribute all the same. The party was saved this year by his influence.

Conservatives walked into this convention lackluster. There was a sense that even if John McCain were to win in November — an end they weren’t exactly certain they were hoping for — conservatism would be entering a dark wilderness phase. When Sarah Palin was chosen as his running mate, that changed a bit.

First of all, how can anyone forget that classic Buckley line: “I am obliged to confess I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University.”

Former Tennesee senator Fred Thompson echoed this line Tuesday night:

Some Washington pundits and media big shots are in a frenzy over the selection of a woman who has actually governed rather than just talked a good game on the Sunday talk shows and hit the Washington cocktail circuit. Well, give me a tough Alaskan Governor who has taken on the political establishment in the largest state in the Union — and won — over the beltway business-as-usual crowd any day of the week.

It was there when former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said on Wednesday night:

Dependency is death to initiative, to risk-taking and opportunity. It’s time to stop the spread of government dependency and fight it like the poison it is.

You know, it’s time for the party of big ideas, not the party of Big Brother.

It was there when Sarah Palin said in her acceptance speech:

There is much to like and admire about our opponent.

But listening to him speak, it’s easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform — not even in the state senate.

This is a man who can give an entire speech about the wars America is fighting, and never use the word “victory” except when he’s talking about his own campaign. But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed . . . when the roar of the crowd fades away . . . when the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot — what exactly is our opponent’s plan? What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he’s done turning back the waters and healing the planet? The answer is to make government bigger . . . take more of your money . . . give you more orders from Washington . . . and to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world. America needs more energy . . . our opponent is against producing it.

Victory in Iraq is finally in sight . . . he wants to forfeit.

Terrorist states are seeking new-clear weapons without delay . . . he wants to meet them without preconditions.

Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America . . . he’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights? Government is too big . . . he wants to grow it.

Congress spends too much . . . he promises more.

Taxes are too high . . . he wants to raise them. His tax increases are the fine print in his economic plan, and let me be specific.

The Democratic nominee for president supports plans to raise income taxes … raise payroll taxes . . . raise investment income taxes . . . raise the death tax . . . raise business taxes . . . and increase the tax burden on the American people by hundreds of billions of dollars. My sister Heather and her husband have just built a service station that’s now opened for business — like millions of others who run small businesses.

It was there when Palin told us she sold the state jet on Ebay.

It was there when John McCain said:

We believe in a strong defense, work, faith, service, a culture of life, personal responsibility, the rule of law, and judges who dispense justice impartially and don’t legislate from the bench. We believe in the values of families, neighborhoods and communities.

We believe in a government that unleashes the creativity and initiative of Americans. Government that doesn’t make your choices for you, but works to make sure you have more choices to make for yourself.

Rush Limbaugh put it well on his show Thursday:

Our people look at Sarah Palin and they see somebody that’s not going to accept the premises of the left, not going to sit there and take it, is going to fight back. She’s a rallying cry. She is extremely popular. It’s not just about guns, babies, Jesus, abortion. This is about Americanism triumphing over forces that are trying to redefine Americanism. Make no mistake, that’s what this election is about. Americanism, from our founding, triumphing over forces that want to redefine it. Our base, the Republican base, has not changed. . . .

Our base has not changed because the foundation of conservatism, individual liberty and freedom has not changed, and it never will because freedom will never go out of style. It’s not about nuance. It’s not about who is the smartest person in the room. This is about defending the traditions and institutions that have defined our greatness and attacking those who seek to limit freedom and liberty. You do it with ideas. You do it in the political arena. It’s not about being collegial with them. You do it the way Sarah Palin demonstrated it can be done last night. Presidential elections are important for a host of reasons, but one of the main reasons, presidential elections are the only thing we have that comes close to a national referendum on where our country is headed. The base of the Republican Party believes Sarah Palin can help to defeat those who threaten their way of life. This is not a cult, it’s not celebrity worship. This is based on authentic, genuine ideas, an authentic, genuine lady who inspires confidence, defines leadership by her very essence. That’s why there is so much support for her.

I have no idea what, in practice, the McCain-Palin administration might mean for conservatism. But I know what they say it will be is about Right. And, as John McCain said in his acceptance speech, “What you fight for is the real test.” As we leave the Twin Cities, with a great love of country, the Right is fighting for what’s right. And that’s in no part because we’ve internalized Strictly Right and all the rest, to greater and lesser degrees of success.

— Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.

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