I might not be your favorite writer. One of the great things about National Review is that I don’t have to be.
National Review took a principled and — even at the time — unpopular stand against the man who would go on to become the Republican presidential nominee and, incredibly enough, president. I was not the most restrained voice on the issue. I am sure that this resulted in some canceled subscriptions and withheld donations, but I never heard much about any of that. I get a lot of feedback on my work from the editors here — “Do you think this is really fair to the other side’s argument? Are you sure about the numbers here? Do you really need a 121-word lead?” — but it’s never: “Don’t write that because it will annoy x donor or y advertiser.”
If you are wondering what your donations and support go to, that’s it: maintaining a conservative institution that lets a lot of different writers with a lot of different opinions write what they think without worrying about anything other than producing the best work they can. It’s a big part of what allows National Review to operate as an opinion journal in which — this is remarkable, if you think about it — there is no party line. If there’s a live political dispute that Ramesh Ponnuru, Rich Lowry, Andrew C. McCarthy, Reihan Salam, Jay Nordlinger, Mike Potemra, Rick Brookhiser, Kat Timpf, Veronique de Rugy, Ian Tuttle, Alexandra DeSanctis, and I all agree about . . . I can’t think what it is.
The conservative movement has some thinking to do: about trade, about immigration, about the role of government in the economy, about the character of our public institutions and the people who staff them, about Europe and China, about terrorism, about debt and spending, about entitlements, about taxes, about culture, about marriage, about life. Where do conservatives want to have those arguments? We have a great many good journals and lively websites, but there is no substitute for National Review.
And that is why National Review has been here losing money since 1955. As an institution, it has to make some beady-eyed business decisions, but this operation isn’t really a business: National Review fails to turn a profit for roughly the same reason that the Salvation Army fails to turn a profit — turning a profit is not where we are here to do. We run a pretty tight-fisted operation, as anybody who has visited our glamorous base of operations knows, but doing the intellectual and polemic work of defending the best that has been thought and said from the half-pint savages on our college campuses and from rather more serious enemies elsewhere is not cheap. And there is always more that can be done.
I thank you sincerely for your support and hope we can continue to count on it.Which is why we ask for your support. National Review is and always has been a collaborative effort, a kind of movement within the movement. National Review is more than a magazine and a website and podcasts and debates and panel discussions: It is a community, a discussion, and a friendship — even (especially) when we disagree.
— Kevin D. Williamson is National Review’s roving correspondent.