National Review Still Wrong on Civil Rights History

National Review founder William F. Buckley and his brother in law L. Brent Bozell in 1954.Wikimedia

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Jonathan Chait, Jonathan Bernstein and myself have all weighed in on Kevin D. Williamson’s rather ahistorical take on conservatives being the real heroes of the civil rights movement in National Review.

Among Williamson’s odd omissions was not mentioning the misty eyed defense of white supremacy National Review founder William F. Buckley penned in 1957. (He also ignores Buckley’s view that the Civil Rights Act was “artificially deduced from the Commerce Clause of the Constitution or from the 14th Amendment.”) That many liberal Republicans supported civil rights, and many racist Democrats didn’t, doesn’t alter the fact that the modern conservative movement really begins with a man who campaigned on opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Williamson hasn’t responded to any of his critics at National Review, but he did offer this up on Twitter:

“WFB’s views have been endlessly documented. I have nothing to add.”

Williamson has “nothing to add” to the historical evidence that debunks his argument. I supposed I wouldn’t have “anything to add” either, but I’m wondering how that conversation went with National Review‘s editors.

NR Editor: Do you think maybe in this piece about conservatives being awesome at the time we should acknowledge what was actually written in this magazine in the 1950s and 60s?

Williamson: Well what do we have to add?

Williamson did offer a valiant Chewbacca defense of his piece as well:

Chait: “Why not get behind the next civil rights idea (gay marriage) now?” How about an all-African-American national referendum on that?

Man, listen: The expiration date on that “joke” is rapidly approaching

Adam Serwer is filling in while Kevin is on vacation.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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