A Nation of Outsiders: How the White Middle Class Fell in Love with Rebellion in Postwar America

By Grace Elizabeth Hale | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Rebels on the Right: Conservatives
as Outsiders in Liberal America

I am already a revolutionary against the present liberal
order
.
William F. Buckley Jr.

William F. Buckley may have been postwar America’s most important rebel. At Yale from 1946 to 1950, Buckley displayed an arch conservatism at odds with most of his fellow students, the faculty, and the administration. Far from attempting to hide, Buckley went looking for a fight. His first book, God and Man at Yale, published the year after he graduated, attacked the university for refusing to teach both Christianity and free market economics. Already, Buckley had begun to conceive of liberalism as “an orthodoxy,” “the limits within which its [Yale’s] faculty members must keep their opinions if they wish to be ‘tolerated.’” Professors had to be curbed, through alumni control of appointments and course offerings.1

Over the next few years, Buckley polished his sense that liberals dominated mid-century American life. And he would, he insisted, in his words and his manner and his style as well as in his politics, rebel against it all. By 1955, he had founded his own journal of conservative ideas, National Review, and announced its attack on not only “liberal orthodoxy” but also time itself. National Review, the publisher’s statement in the first issue asserted, “stands athwart history, yelling Stop.” On Mike Wallace’s television show in New York in December 1957, Buckley called himself a revolutionary:

-132-

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