While admitting that William F. Buckley Jr. himself would probably have a more optimistic take, Richard Brookhiser writes: “The conservative movement is no more. Its destroyers are Donald Trump and his admirers” (“WFB Today,” March 5). This reminds me of a line from Lawrence of Arabia: “Truly, for some men nothing is written unless they write it.” If the ideals of the conservative movement are sound, then there is no reason why they cannot one day rise to prominence again in American politics. The challenges faced by WFB dwarf those we confront in the early 21st century.
Buckley and his allies confronted not only a statist post–WWII political consensus in both major American political parties, but also a Marxist ideology with intellectual defenders around the world and a serious propaganda operation bankrolled by a major nuclear-armed nation-state. Furthermore, the costs associated with publishing even a humble magazine of political commentary were high, and the risks much greater, in a world dominated by the Big Three broadcasters and a few big-city newspapers. Rockefeller Republicanism, a strain of tax-and-spend big-government paternalism, was a major force in American politics, and libertarian economists such as Hayek were still viewed as fringe radicals or out-of-date throwbacks. And yet: National Review endures, the Soviet Union is no more, and, outside of a few sociology departments, Marxism truly is in the ash heap of history. Against this, sycophants defending a man who could not secure a majority of Republican-party-primary votes seem small.
How do we move forward now? In short, look to the states for creative conservative reforms, hold fast to first principles, and show a large amount of grace toward like-minded thinkers and political actors who have disappointed over the past few years. I do not know whether it is an unforgivable sin, but I know that the country and the cause of limited government and free markets cannot afford to see the conservative movement embrace despair.
Michael A. Wood
“The Resegregation Myth” (March 5) requires two corrections. Board of Education v. Dowell concerned a school district in Oklahoma, not Kentucky, and the economist Raj Chetty now works at Stanford, not Harvard.