A Symptom of the Problem

William F. Buckley was supposed to be a great inspiration to “the conservative movement.” Yet for all his charm, eloquence and intelligence, he was a symptom of the problem.

The conservative movement has been defined primarily by (1) the absence of left-wing liberalism and (2) the presence of religion. The problem with the absence of left-wing liberalism is that it’s a negation rather than an affirmation. You cannot be merely against something; you have to be for something else. The extent to which Buckley was for something was his advocacy of religion and politics. But religion and freedom are completely at odds, at least in a political context. Religion belongs as far away from government as possible. Otherwise, you end up with simply a different form of tyranny than the social welfare fascists have been creating for the last century or so.

Buckley died right when the conservative movement ran up against this reality one more time. There’s no Ronald Reagan charm to save it in 2008; only poor old John McCain. There’s only the vacuum created by the inability and unwillingness of the “conservative movement” to define its terms–and to make those terms consistent with freedom, individual rights, laissez-faire capitalism and a completely secular state.

I know what I want to see, and some others under the gigantic umbrella of the “conservative” movement likewise know. But its most prominent leaders did not. Buckley didn’t get it right. Unless someone else does, and millions embrace it, freedom and individual rights will go the way of the dinosaur.