WASHINGTON, March 16, 2013 — At a panel discussion of the life and career of William F. Buckley, heavy attention was paid to “fusionism.” Lee Edwards explained that Buckley was a fusionist, putting the ideology of Frank Meyer into practice. Fusionism ‒ the coalition between traditionalists, libertarians and anti-communists ‒ was powerful enough to make the Republican Party a force after it had lost five straight presidential elections.
As Buckley grew the movement, which is very much what CPAC is about, Richard Nixon and his successful runs for President in 1968 and 1972 built the modern day Republican coalition: ethnic Catholics, Southerners, Mormons and blue-collar labor. Nixon created the coalition that lead the Republican Party to four, 40-state-plus landslides in the next five elections.
Fusionism is a tricky subject, however, in the modern day Republican Party and conservative movement. Libertarians, traditionalists, neo-cons and all the other colors that fit in the Republican prism acknowledge that as much as we don’t like each other, in order to have any success as a party, we need each other.
Coalition building is much easier said than done. There is a certain irony that two fusionists and coalition builders who helped create the organization of the conservative movement and the Republican Party are both are very rarely mentioned at CPAC. That is because there is a certain idealist understanding that principles should be enough to sustain the movement and at the same time there is a real acknowledgement that they obviously can’t.
It’s understandable that conservatives do not want the stain that Richard Nixon left on the brand. Yet we owe a vast amount to these men and the genius that created a sustainable organization. Not enough can be said about the great achievements born from their labor.
William Buckley created Young Americans for Freedom, National Review, and the New York State Conservative Party ‒ which just a few years later would send his brother to Washington as a United States Senator ‒ and at the same time hosted a high brow political show, the likes of which you will never see on MSNBC or Fox News today.
Richard Nixon took a party that had lost two straight Presidential elections and left Democrats with a super majority of senators, governors, and representatives. If there was ever a time the Republican Party was looking to go the way of the Whigs, it was before Nixon. Fast-forward three decades; Republicans controlled the White House for five of six presidential elections, losing only one, when Carter won with 50.1 percent of the vote in the wake of the most sensational political scandal in decades.
So the continuing question we conservatives ask ourselves at CPAC is, what next? Who will bring the conservative movement and the Republican Party to great new heights? And as people clamor to hear Ann Coulter talk about Ronald Reagan, maybe some should be looking to hear about William Buckley and Richard Nixon.
The only hope I have after listening to a lot of experts, politicians and panelists discuss everything from future elections to environmental regulation is that every Dark Age has the potential to bring a renaissance.
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