TAC readers might enjoy my take on the late William F. Buckley Jr.’s Flying High, his memoir of the Goldwater era and early years of National Review. There are parallels between the Right described in Buckley’s book and that of today — both have been fractious, even severely so. Philosophical disagreements among conservatives in the 1950s were sharp and intense, and the right side (in my view, at least) didn’t always prevail. But it’s telling to compare that epoch, with all its failings, to the situation we face today, in which so much of the Right has become inarticulate and seemingly has no philosophical moorings at all. Divisions on the Right are nothing new, but the sacrifice of all independent thought upon the altar of political advantage — that’s a recent development.
As I suggest in my review, I think the answer to the Right’s difficulties lies not so much in returning to the age of Goldwater, but in recovering the vitality that led to the Goldwater movement in the first place. And that means looking back to the traditions of Robert Taft and the Old Right.