Magazine June 21, 2010, Issue

The Right’s Civil Wrongs

(Darren Gygi)
On the intellectual roots of a troubled legacy

Civil rights are a problem for the American Right: a political problem, an intellectual one, a moral one. In the civil-rights debates of the 1950s and 1960s, many conservatives — including William F. Buckley Jr., other figures associated with this magazine, and Sen. Barry Goldwater — took positions that the vast majority of conservatives now reject. Most contemporary conservatives who know this history regret it and find it embarrassing.

In some cases these conservative positions were motivated by straightforward support for an official policy of white supremacy, or by a desire to enlist segregationist southern Democrats in the burgeoning conservative movement.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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