Too Many Republicans Use Conservatism as a Tool

In 1965, William F. Buckley, the founder of National Review magazine and, as much as anyone, of modern American conservatism, ran for mayor of New York City. It was a quixotic endeavor. When asked what he’d do if he won, he responded, “Demand a recount.”

Buckley ran, in other words, not to win a campaign but to win an argument. It was a three-way race, but he really had only one opponent: John Lindsay, the Republican candidate. Lindsay was a liberal Republican back when that didn’t sound oxymoronic. 

Buckley ran partly for fun but also to argue that there was no difference between the Republican and Democratic parties in New York — and perhaps nationally. 

From Buckley’s vantage point, the only reason Lindsay was running as a Republican was expediency. If being a Democrat shortened the climb to power, Lindsay would have called himself a Democrat (which he eventually did). 

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