The Future of Conservatism?Breaking News
tags: conservatism, William F. Buckley, intellectual history, Scott Walker
Back in July 2019, our colleague, Jim Swift, asked “Can Scott Walker Save the Future of Conservatism?”
The former Wisconsin governor had just been named the president of the Young America’s Foundation, and Swift wondered whether Walker could use his position to change the trajectory of the right.
Swift noted that YAF’s list of campus speakers had grown both stale and strange, an odd mix of “uninspiring has-beens and cranks alongside conservatives who are the real deal.”
Could Walker use his position to move away from the bigots and crazies who had begun to dominate Conservatism Inc.? Might he try to restore some of the intellectual heft of a movement launched by William F. Buckley Jr.?
If a new video campaign is any indication, the answer seems to be: No. As in, God no, not at all.
The contrast is striking. When Buckley founded National Review magazine in the 1950s, he famously gathered serious thinkers and writers from the various branches of conservative thought: Catholic intellectuals, ex-communists, libertarians, and traditionalists.
As he began his own long game to make conservativism coherent and compelling, he featured intellectuals like Russell Kirk, James Burnham, Frank Meyer, and Willmoore Kendall, and Garry Wills. Buckley’s conservative universe included folks like John Dos Passos, Whittaker Chambers, Harry V. Jaffa, Charles Krauthammer, Irving Kristol, W. H. Auden, Edward C. Banfield, Jacques Barzun, Richard Neuhaus, Robert Nisbet, and Michael Oakeshott.
Buckley later was instrumental in founding Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). The group was founded at his home, where the “The Sharon Statement,” YAF’s founding document, was drafted.
Picking up Buckley’s banner, Walker’s group (which merged with the original YAF in 2011) promises to offer “the best minds in conservative thought.”
But a quick perusal of the YAF speaker’s lineup suggests that Walker is no Buckley.
There are, indeed, some worthy and substantive conservative thinkers on the roster (David French and Jonah Goldberg among them.)
But Walker’s group also features Steve Crowder, the far-right clickbaity “comedian” who recently posted an outrageously racist video mocking black farmers. More recently, YouTube removed another Crowder video for peddling COVID disinformation.