"I propose," wrote Buckley, "simply, to expose what I regard as an extraordinarily irresponsible educational attitude that, under the protective label 'academic freedom,' has produced one of the most extraordinary incongruities of our time: the institution that derives its moral and financial support from Christian individualists and then addresses itself to the task of persuading the sons of these supporters to be atheistic socialists."
Buckley's purpose was not merely to make a provocative observation but to prosecute a cultural war.
"My concern over present-day educational practices stems from my conviction that, after each side has had its say, we are right and they are wrong," Buckley wrote, "and my greatest anguish is not in contemplation of the antagonism that this essay will evoke from many quarters, but rather from the knowledge that they are winning and we are losing."
What in fact happened is that Buckley helped lead the battle into fields beyond New Haven, Conn. -- into America at large. He became a popular media personality and founded National Review. On his "Firing Line" TV program, he happily lacerated with nothing but sharp logic all comers from the liberal establishment -- thus inspiring young conservatives, who cheered him on. With National Review, he built an institutional home for conservative writers and thinkers, and promoted other activist conservative institutions.
In a new introduction for "God and Man at Yale" written in 1977, Buckley confessed that he had been reluctant -- "mostly for stylistic reasons" -- to go back and read his first book. He made clear, however, that he was by no means reluctant to continue the battle he had joined then. "(T)he ideals I sought to serve were those that no authoritarian society would regard as other than sedition," he wrote, "namely, the ideals of a minimalist state and deference to a transcendent order."
Thanks in no small part to Bill Buckley, the liberal establishment did not prevail. It now faces a conservative counter-establishment whose members are found everywhere from the offices of small businesses in Middle America to the microphones of big-time talk radio.
Buckley's fight goes on.
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