Yesterday, William F. Buckley passed away. I must say something on such an occasion, given that this blog being dedicated to the idea of Fusionism, and Mr Buckley was perhaps the original Fusionist.
Many, many others have provided worthwhile thoughts and remembrances, so I won't add anything on his historical contributions to the Conservative Movement.
I haven't tackled any of Mr Buckley's books and have only read some of his more recent articles. However, my thinking has been heavily influenced by many of the early writers at National Review. I think all Conservatives, Libertarians and non-liberals, in general, owe Mr Buckley an enormous amount of gratitude.
Mr Goldberg has made an obvious prediction here. However, I think its a wonderful time to reflect on how National Review and the Conservative Movement have changed in the last several decades. I'm have no doubt that Mr Buckley would welcome serious, thoughtful contributions on this subject. Finally, I doubt these critiques will be made exclusively by the Left. For example, the WSJ piece that I linked above, says:
In his last years, Buckley grew discouraged about what he considered the drifts of the American right. In an interview with this page in 2005, he noted that "I think conservatism has become a little bit slothful." In private, his contempt was more acute. Part of it, he believed, was that what used to be living ideas had become mummified doctrines to many in the conservative political class. At the Yale Political Union in November 2006—Buckley's last public audience—he called for a "sacred release from the old rigidities" and "a repristinated vision." It was a bracing reminder that American conservatives must adapt eternal principles to new realities.
I provided some of my own thoughts on these issues here. I miss the independence of the old National Review. Would libertarian publications publish (grudgingly) positive thoughts on any of today's National Review types?
I think Conservatives have a lot to learn from Mr Buckley and from the history of the movement so far. Conservatives, like Mr Buckley in the early years of NR, should work with as many sort-of-like-minded allies as possible; don't required Conservatives to have a checklist of required positions, merely require a Conservative disposition or attitude and then enjoy the debate. If agreement on a particular issue is too widespread within the movement, then the movement has probably lost some of its intellectualism and become too dogmatic. Bring back some monarchists, for example.
Don't become a subsidiary of the Republican Party. That Party's electoral success is at best tangentially related to the success of the Conservative Movement.
One of the main points of Conservatism and Fusionism has always been limited government. I think the failure of the Movement to actually, meaningfully limit government despite its other successes has been severely underrated. (It may be a bigger problem when it comes to keeping the movement unified than the fall of Communism). The failures in this area require new, and I think more radical policies to try again for success. It should also cause Conservatives to be more anti-government in general and anti-war in particular. War necessarily leads to bigger government, and once government grows, we can't reduce its size.
Whatever happens to the Movement in the future, opponents of the ever-increasing power of the State and defenders of Virtue and the Permanent Things will, in many way, always stand in the shadow of Mr Buckley.