This past weekend, Conservatives gathered in Washington D.C. for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC. It is the yearly pilgrimage of Conservatives from all over the country to mingle, debate, party, and in the case of this year, mull over a pretty extensive slate of possible 2016 presidential candidates.
The gathering this year also coincided with an anniversary. Friday, February 27 marked the seventh anniversary of the death of the man who many credit with the founding of modern American conservatism, William F. Buckley Jr. Buckley, in his trademark haughty sounding aristocratic drawl, made conservatism easy to understand. His books, television show, columns and commentary taught generations the meaning of conservatism.
Whether Buckley would have been an observer or participant at CPAC, what would his thinking have been about where the Conservative movement is headed, and what it has become? What would his thoughts have been on the people who will compete for the Republican nomination for president in 2016?
Many may not know that often Buckley referred to himself as either a Libertarian or Conservative. A lot of fusion of those two ideologies seems to be taking place in the Republican Party today, with debate over such things as the legalization of marijuana. One of the greatest back and forths within the Republican Party today is that which pits the Establishment vs. the Tea Party Conservatives. Who is more Conservative? Who is a true Conservative? William Buckley once said of George W. Bush, that he was conservative, but he was not, “a Conservative”. Perhaps Buckley would see the same struggle going on today between the lower case c’s and the capital C’s, the latter being true conservatives, fiscally conservative, yet socially Conservative/Libertarian, even Libertarian leaning.
What would Buckley think of the current crop of candidates? He would no doubt, given his statements and writings, find Kentucky Senator Rand Paul appealing. Out of all of those possibly in the running, which would be dubbed a true Conservative? Ted Cruz and Scott Walker would certainly get that distinction by today’s Conservatives. Would he describe Jeb Bush in the same way he described his brother? Most of the Party faithful definitely would.
What sort of brilliant piece would Buckley have penned for the National Review on the state of the GOP while we celebrate all things conservative at CPAC? According to Jefferey Hart of The American Conservative, Buckley was no fan of the Iraq war. He was not a supporter of the surge until he saw its early success and felt it needed more time to work. One wonders what his thoughts might be on the total and utter disaster that is the Middle East.
As Conservatives came together to celebrate and motivate one another for 2016, was the ghost of William Buckley present in the great hall where presidential hopefuls came to make their case? It could definitely be argued that it was among the young people, hordes of them, who came to watch, listen, and support their candidates and their beliefs, and to learn at the feet of all those trailblazers who have gone before them, the Hannitys, the Levins, the Malkins, and most definitely, the ghost of Andrew Breitbart.