Conservative icon William F. Buckley Jr. would approve of the tea party movement, says conservative historian Lee Edwards, who just finished a book about Buckley.
“Bill Buckley embodied the idea of blending the main streams of conservatism – traditional conservatives, libertarian conservatives, social conservatives, neo-conservatives, national security conservatives and so forth,” Edwards told Newsmax.TV.
“He always said politics is a matter of addition not subtraction. I think he would reach out with open arms to the tea party movement.”
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Edwards sees many similarities between the tea partyers and Buckley. They both are/were anti-establishment; they both support(ed) limited government, for example.
And just as not all tea partyers are Republicans, “Bill Buckley was very careful about choosing Republicans as the main political vehicle, but maintaining good relationships with Democrats like Joe Lieberman,” Edwards said.
His book is “William F. Buckley Jr.: The Maker of a Movement.” Edwards is a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation.
And how would Buckley unite conservatives to victory in today’s political climate?
First, “He would make sure there are no extremists,” as when he said there was no room for the John Birch Society in the conservative movement of the 1950s-60s, Edwards said. That group’s founder Robert Welch said communists made up 50-70 percent of the U.S. government.
In addition, Buckley would counsel against engaging in ad hominem personal attacks, Edward said.
“Stick to ideas. Bring people together around the basic ideas of conservatism – limited government, individual responsibility, free enterprise.”
President Obama, who is trying to turn us into a European democratic-socialist society, presents the conservative movement with the biggest challenge of its 50-60 year existence, Edwards says.
So how should conservatives respond?
“They have to dig down deep into their ideas, come up with the right kind of leadership and candidates and present a united front,” Edwards said.
He sees a good chance for Republicans to make strong gains in the House and Senate in November’s elections.
“But I think we have to be careful,” Edwards said. “Bill Buckley as an action intellectual would counsel against getting caught up in just winning elections.”
Instead, Republicans must make sure their candidates believe in conservative ideas. “Doing that, I think we can begin to turn around this country and get it on the right direction, not to serfdom but to liberty,” Edwards said.
As for Republican candidates, he says he’s enthusiastic about a number of House members including Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Mike Pence of Indiana.
Past candidates like Mitt Romney should be considered too, Edwards says.
“It’s also very important not to take Gov. [Sarah] Palin and put her in some category as an untouchable. That would be an enormous mistake”
Edwards wouldn’t call Palin a model conservative.
“I don’t think she’s done much reading of classical works such as ‘The Road to Serfdom,’ ‘The Conservative Mind,’ or ‘Ideas Have Consequences,’ all of which make up the conservative canon for most people.”
But he’s highly impressed with Palin’s natural communication skills.
“I think you need to surround her with the best possible advice. Encourage her, keep her going. Take advantage of her energy, her enthusiasm, her ability to communicate. And make sure she remains a leader of the conservative movement.”
Conservatives are on the right path, Edwards says.
“I welcome the spirited debate we’re having among various brands of conservatives,” he said. Out of that debate can come a philosophical and political balance that can restore conservatism to its rightful place: “a governing majority in America.”
The durability of the welfare state over the past 80 years may frustrate some conservatives, Edwards says. “But you have to realize as T.S. Eliot said, there are no lost causes, because there are no gained causes.”
A quote from Thomas Jefferson also should be a guide to conservatives: “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance,” Edwards said.
“We must communicate these ideas of limited government, free enterprise, individual freedom and responsibility to young people to make sure they can carry on and preserve the freedom that we worked so hard to maintain.”
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