William F. Buckley died today. He seems to have died at his desk and was found by his cook. I suspect that's exactly how he might have wanted it.
He was the figure who more than any other, shepherded a popular conservative movement. His National Review was the only journal of conservative opinion for decades and it would be difficult to find a person of my generation who wasn't influenced by it. Buckley served as a sort of self appointed pope of the movement, expelling people and organizations he deemed outside the pale or dangerous to the overall movement's health. The Birchers were extreme and Rand's Objectivists were a cult and a joke. Unfortunately he let the neoconservatives in the tent and they lost no time in taking the movement over. The main organs of the movement today parrot their positions and toe their line. He sought to balance the need of the movement to have intellectual gravity and political discipline simultaneously. There is something poignant, almost tragic about a man who built a movement only to see it become the plaything of other interests.
As a Roman Catholic I'm sure he reflected on the nature of fallible man and the eternal nature of all serious things. He knew that the National Review and the Weekly Standard are ephemeral and the truth will remain and be proclaimed with or without them. A character played by Laurence Olivier in the film Spartacus is asked about the nature of Rome and what will become of Rome if Spartacus wins. He finally says something to the effect that if Rome falls, Rome will persist as a perfect idea in the mind of the gods.
The Conservative Idea will persist. We inherited it from Rome, and the Swiss, and the Anglo-Saxons. Our contribution will flower inturn one day. And Bill Buckley's failure of judgment will not stop it. For all that he did that was good and helpful, thanks and farewell.