Am I overstating things? Think about it. Just before the 2008 election, Barack Obama declared to his acolytes that he was only a few days away from “fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” If you didn’t believe him then—if you thought that talk of “fundamentally transforming” the country was mere hustings hyperbole—perhaps the last five years will have convinced you otherwise. Just think, if you can bear it, of the imperial grandiosity and arrogance on view in Tuesday’s State of the Union performance.
Ideas, Bill Buckley observed in that founding editorial, “rule the world.” What ideas? Liberty for one. The United States was “conceived in liberty,” as Lincoln put it. The idea of individual freedom was the country’s cynosure, its guiding principle. By 1955, that principle had been insidiously undermined by the well-intentioned dispensations of “literate America,” intoxicated as it was by “radical social experimentation.”
Think of it: in 1955, Bill Buckley argued that “there never was an age of conformity quite like this one.” And today? Looking back, we understand that the dampening spirit of conformity and the assault on freedom were then in their infancy. They have suddenly come of age. The question is not whether Bill Buckley’s inaugural bulletin is still pertinent. It could hardly be more so. The question is whether those “uncorroded by a cynical contempt for human freedom” will command the wit, rhetoric, and moral courage to stand athwart tomorrow whispering, confiding, explaining—sometimes even yelling— Stop!—in order that freedom might have an opportunity to prevail.
I think that is the real question that stands behind the question of our position on “social issues.”