Buckley in 1955: The Liberal Mind and Democratic selection of the Republican presidential candidate

When Bill Buckley started National Review he faced a situation in which both the Republican President and the Democratic opposition were Liberals. Liberals had seized all the branches of government during the New Deal era and the leadership positions in both major political parties. The conservatives that remained were represented in the public eye by John Birch society paranoids and reprobate Jim Crow Dixiecrats. It was up to Buckley and his associates to clean house and build up a body of principled thought on which to base the new conservative movement, which found its truest expression to date in Ronald Reagan, who was not just a good actor and excellent speaker, but also one of the intellectuals laboring in the trenches of the conservative project.

Early in the project, in the year of our Lord 1955, Buckley wrote The Liberal Mind in Facts Forum News. It is a 6 page plaint in small type that describes the irrationality, book-burning, mob justice, and personality cults of Liberals at the time. The most interesting thing about it is a description of how in 1952 the Liberal editors all came to support Eisenhower, the Republican, against Taft in the primary and promised to support him in the general. Not only did they keep their word, their thinking was very curious, and familiar to those who wonder how the Republicans came up with McCain in 2008.

So Arthur Krock sat down to explain a few realities to Mr. Adlai Stevenson, and he did this by reminding him of the nine calculations made by the average Liberal editor the previous spring.

1) Last spring, it had become clear to everyone that the Republican party would nominate either Eisenhower or Taft. Moreover, it was clear that Taft opposed Truman’s foreign policy.

2) On the other hand, it was clear that General Eisenhower went along with Truman’s foreign policy.

3) If Truman wanted to, he could get himself nominated by the Democratic party. He might be facing Taft, the candidate of the Republican party. And, to quote Mr. Krock, ‘signs were numerous that in a Taft-Truman contest the Senator would have an excellent chance of election.’

4) I quote “To those who . . . believed (in Truman’s foreign policy) the prospect of Taft as President was calamitous; and obviously the first and effective means of preventing this was the nomination of Eisenhower, the only other Republican who had a chance to be chosen by the party convention.”

5) But “newspapers and individuals who held this opinion would have had small influence with the Republican National Convention unless they indicated they were prepared to back Eisenhower in the campaign if nominated.”

6) Other Democratic contenders were also weak, and, 7), Stevensen was saying he was not a contender for the nomination.

Therefore, 8 ) “To those newspapers and citizens that wanted Truman’s foreign policy to be championed . . . the plain procedure was to attempt to assure this at the Republican convention (which came first) through the nomination of Eisenhower.”

And furthermore, (9) Stevensen ought to know this, as he too, surely, agrees that it would have been calamitous if Taft had got in.

This, in microcosm, is the Liberal primer on how to get your way no matter who wins. It’s the political way of saying, heads I win, tails you lose. It is also a primer on how to end the two-party system in America. It is curious how much more successful the Liberals have been in their struggle against conservatives than in their struggle against Communists.

There are many echoes in 2008 to this article from 1955. Review may prove instructive.


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3 thoughts on “Buckley in 1955: The Liberal Mind and Democratic selection of the Republican presidential candidate

  1. “It is curious how much more successful the Liberals have been in their struggle against conservatives than in their struggle against Communists.”

    What struggle against communists? By the time the above was written (the mid 50s), there were few real liberals left, and even those were not serious about the threat of communism. The only persons who were serious in their assessment of the communist threat in those days were Tailgunner Joe (yes, I know the sobriquet has been used to slander McCarthy) and his (few) compatriots and those who were active behind the scenes, such as Stephan Possony–a great hero of the 70 Years’ War with the Soviets–who were working to strategically defeat the Societ Union.

    Any other opposition to communism in those days was, to be kind, less than serious.

    And, of course, McCarthy was politically inept in his very right, as it turns out from records released after the fall of the Soviet Union, pursuit of communist activities in the U.S.

    There were no serious opponents of communism on the left that I can recall from those days. Of course, I was a bit young at the time and may not have been paying close enough attention to current events, but reflection and reexamination of those times seems to reinforce that impression.

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