Political Parties are Supposed to be Gatekeepers of Sanity. Republicans no longer Are.
I’m old enough to remember conservative icon William F. Buckley. Apparently, I’m apparently also old enough to use products like “Doan’s Pills” and “Ensure Vitality Booster”, on account of my vitality being unboosted. But that’s the subject of another article.
Buckley was the founder and chief editor of National Review, the leading conservative publication in the nation from the late fifties through at least the Reagan administration. He was also the host of the PBS conservative talk show called “Firing Line”, which I used to watch.
Some have said that it was odd for a teenager to watch a show like that, and intimated the only reason I did is because I couldn’t get a prom date. But that’s abjectly false! I watched Firing Line because we only got 4 channels on our TV back then, and it was either Firing Line or watching Merv Griffin interview Za Za Gabor for the millionth time. Plus…I couldn’t get a prom date.
Buckley, who for some reason hosted his show while reclining so far back in his chair as to be virtually vertical, was a staunch conservative. He supported loyalty oaths as a condition for employment, prayer in school, the death penalty, highly regressive tax policies. He opposed Medicare, Social Security and racial integration. He also aggressively supported and cared deeply about the Republican party. Nobody considered Buckley a squish, or a RINO (although that term had not yet come into fashion as describing insufficiently extreme Republicans, and was mostly confined to it’s traditional meanings; i.e. a large, armor-plated mammal or a type of plasty one gets on one’s nose).
As far to the right as Buckley was, he did have something that the modern Republican Party does not have; limits. In the early 60s, an extremist fringe, right-wing group known as the John Birch Society was gaining prominence in certain circles. They took traditional conservative positions and then goosed them with a healthy smattering of crazy conspiracy theories. For example, they believed President Eisenhower was a Communist. In fact they believed everyone was a Communist. As we’ve established, I didn’t have a prom date, but if I did, the John Birch Society would have thought she was a Communist.