When I was teaching American Government we tossed out the textbook for the second semester and used Newsweek magazine as our text. We had spent the first semester studying the specifics of America’s system of government so for the second semester we focused on the realities of that system. At that juncture we changed the name of the course to, Problems in a Democratic Society.
One assignment each week was to read the editorial column of whatever writer was in print that week. William F. Buckley, Jr. was always the toughest. He was an intellectual and spoke with an intellectual’s vocabulary and understanding him often took the collective brain power of all those assembled.
While Buckley was conservative and I didn’t always agree with him (on those occasions I actually understood what he was saying) he did advocate moving the conservative movement away from the racism and antisemitism common to the John Birch era. He is sometimes called the “Father of Modern Conservatism” but I’ve got a feeling today’s modern conservative would write him off as a RINO (Republican in name only) since the Trump brand of conservatism has fallen back on what Buckley fought against.
Speaking of Trump, it’s very interesting that William F. Buckley, Jr. had the Donald’s number sixteen years ago. That far back and specifically with Trump in mind, Buckley spoke about the dangers of a “self-funded” demagogue making a run at the White House. Here’s what he had to say:
“Look for the narcissist. The most obvious target in today’s lineup is, of course, Donald Trump. When he looks at a glass, he is mesmerized by its reflection. If Donald Trump were shaped a little differently, he would compete for Miss America. But whatever the depths of self-enchantment, the demagogue has to say something. So what does Trump say? That he is a successful businessman and that that is what America needs in the Oval Office. There is some plausibility in this, though not much. The greatest deeds of American Presidents — midwifing the new republic; freeing the slaves; harnessing the energies and vision needed to win the Cold War — had little to do with a bottom line.”
Pretty damned clairvoyant, huh?