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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

“The rightwardmost viable candidate.”

In Jun 1964 as the Republican national convention neared, William F. Buckley Jr. told his editorial board, “National Review will support the rightwardmost viable candidate.”

Considering he was the editor, that was that.

In 2013, Neal B. Freeman, a former National Review editor, explained what Buckley meant by saying what he did not mean: Electable. He meant viable. According to Freeman, Nelson Rockefeller was more electable, but Goldwater was more viable.

Freeman wrote:
I did not check back every five minutes over the next 50 years to see if Bill had amended his formulation of the Buckley Rule. But in the following year, 1965, he reaffirmed his position by running in New York City as a third-party conservative against a highly electable Republican. I can tell you as the manager of that campaign that there was never a single day, from our first planning meeting in February until the polls closed in November, that Bill considered himself even remotely electable. But viable? Absolutely. He was the best candidate in the country to carry the conservative message into the heart of American liberalism. And for those who needed further reinforcement of the point, five years later Bill’s brother, James, ran for the U.S. Senate as a third-party candidate against a mainstream-Republican incumbent.
But Buckley was not viable in that race. His was a vanity candidacy and fine, if one is so inclined and has the money, then file and run. But whatever message he sent went undelivered. However, Buckley's candidacy did not cost Republican Congressman John Lindsay the mayorship. And five years later, Buckley's brother ran as a third party candidate for the U.S. Senate and won. Thus in both cases, the third-party run did not elect a Democrat.

Which brings us to this year and Ted Cruz. Therefore, should conservatives go third party?

Judging by Buckley's actions, there are two circumstances under which this is acceptable. The first being if it just doesn't matter, as in the 1965 New York City mayor's race. The second being if the candidate can win.

Given the likelihood of a Trump victory, knock yourselves out.

However, it is as pointless as WFB's run in 1965.

The argument for party purity at all costs -- which George Will advocates -- is a disaster. Will last December pointed to President Taft and Teddy Roosevelt splitting the party and electing Democrat Woodrow Wilson president:
Taft finished third, carrying only Utah and Vermont. But because Taft hewed to conservatism, and was supported by some other leading Republicans (e.g., Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge, one of TR’s closest friends, and Elihu Root, TR’s secretary of war and then secretary of state), the Republican Party survived as a counterbalance to a progressive Democratic Party.
It also led to the Federal Reserve, Prohibition, and American participation in World War I. The nation paid a hefty price for the intellectual intramural antics of conservatives.

However, as I said, at this point, the election looks more like the 1965 mayoral race in New York City than 1912. To Never Trump advocates, I say go your own way. Who knows, in 2024 Mike Lee or some other very viable conservative will be nominated to succeed President Trump.


  1. Thing is, Daddy Cruz was not viable. He turned off a lot of people who had some, if not most or all of his positions as their own.

    Myself, I can't see running a forlorn hope who finishes in the pack and barely gets heard, if at all.

  2. As usual, I agree with you that the behavior of the NeverTrumpsters will not matter to the general election. There aren’t enough of them themselves and nobody pays much attention to what they say anymore.
    Luke 13:28 is the apposite verse here. Paraphrasing, “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth when ye shall see Donald Trump, Pat Buchanan and Phyllis Schlafly setting policy but you NeverTrump people yourselves thrust out.”
    Again, how are we defining “conservative” here? Aren’t the people who are whining about Trump really neoconservatives (and a degraded subspecies of leftist)? What is it that neoconservatives want to conserve via globalism, open borders and Middle Eastern military adventurism?

    Steve in Greensboro

  3. All modern political parties are parties of special interests. We are gifted here in the US to be trying to stuff those special interests into just two parties. So, they prattle on about principles and philosophy to obscure which special interest has the current favor.

    "To the parties of special interests, all political questions appear exclusively as problems of political tactics. Their ultimate goal is fixed for them from the start. Their aim is to obtain, at the cost of the rest of the population, the greatest possible advantages and privileges for the groups they represent. The party platform is intended to disguise this objective and give it a certain appearance of justification, but under no circumstances to announce it publicly as the goal of party policy. The members of the party, in any case, know what their goal is; they do not need to have it explained to them. How much of it ought to be imparted to the world is, however, a purely tactical question."

    Mises, Ludwig von. Liberalism (pp. 175-176).

  4. I hope you comment soon on what appears to be Lord Romney's preparation to run as Billy Kristol's third party candidate against Trump.