Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why William F. Buckley Might Have Voted For Obama

Garry Wills, who broke publicly with Bill Buckley in the 1960's over the Civil Rights movement, talked candidly on Charlie Rose's show a year ago on the occasion of William F. Buckley's death, about the founder of American conservatism's personal evolution on the cause of African-American equality and how the two ultimately reconciled. Atlanta-born Wills, something of a surrogate son of Buckley was generationally and intellectually more open to the Civil Rights cause than his surrogate father figure. Christopher Buckley, Buckley's actual son, today writes an interesting post for TheDailyBeast wondering whether or not his late father, William F. Buckley, Jr, would have voted for President Obama. Although Buckley had donated $2,300 to McCain in the GOP primary, Buckley the Younger said that voting for Obama on principle was a not an inconceivable possibility. From TheDaily Beast:

"(M)y friend Chris Matthews had me on Hardball last Friday. Chris was a big fan of my late father, William F., who was in turn very fond of Chris and appeared many times on Hardball. He showed clips of WFB’s appearances during our segment. It was a strange sensation, watching my father, circa 2000, on a monitor, younger and healthier than my last memories of him, as if his ghost had been conjured in a high-tech séance. Chris asked, 'Did your dad vote for Obama?' I said I rather doubted it, as he’d died in February 2008. Chris grinned in a Cheshire Cat way, recovering in about .002 seconds. He has one of the sharpest minds I know. I’ve been in his and Christopher Hitchens’ presence a few times and it’s like watching a tennis match played at the speed of light. 'Yeah, OK, but would he have voted for him?' Chris pressed .. I said it was possible. My father would have been impressed by Barack Obama’s mind and style and grace of manner, as well as by — I’m certain — his abilities as a writer."

William F. Buckley actually argued for an African-American President many years ago on the basis that it would fully integrate African-Americans into the American family, closing, forever, what began with that peculiar institution of slavery. From William F. Buckley's The Governor Listeth:

"There are reasons for urging that final achievement (the black President) which are more important than merely buying the reassurance of American Negroes. They are a form not exactly of white expiation, though I would not dismiss this as a factor in any corporate effort to elect a black President. They are a form of self-assurance. The outstanding charge against America is hypocrisy. … the election of Negro public officials (yes, because they are Negro) is a considerable tonic for the white soul."

If only Buckley had lived a little longer so that we could have the definitive answer as to whether or not the proto-conservative was actually an Obamacon.

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