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


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.

MORE HARD-HITTING JOURNALISM

In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones, a special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.