With today's passing of William F. Buckley, arguably the father of conservatism as we know it today, there are a lot of column inches being spent in tribute. This won't be one of them, not because I don't think Buckley is worthy of a tribute I wrote, but because I don't think I'm worthy to write one.
Instead, we need to look ahead at where conservatism goes from here. It's morbid, but it has to be done. With Buckley's death, conservatism has lost one of the guiding voices and minds of the movement. This leaves conservatism in a bit of a lurch at a time when the debate over its heart and soul needs to be lively.
Who can we look to as the new standard bearer? Rush Limbaugh? Sean Hannity? Glenn Beck? Michael Savage? They and their talk radio brethren can help to fill some of the void, but they fall short. This isn't a knock against them by any means. It's a testament to the impact Buckley had on conservatism as a whole. I'm sure the "next Buckley" is out there somewhere, and we will need him or her now more than ever because there are people attempting to reshape it in their own image.
Granted, everybody on the right will have a different view on what constitutes a conservative ideology, and that's fine to a point. However, what we're seeing right now isn't a difference of opinion; it's a radical redesign of conservatism. When self-styled conservatives start supporting big government, overspending, and the erosion of property rights, that's where I draw the line. Those folks are no more conservative than Cindy Sheehan is. Yet, that's what we're being presented as "conservative" by those looking to water down what conservatism is.
With Buckley's death, true conservatives now have a lot of ground to make up. But as long as there are people who believe in smaller government, lower taxes, and respect for the individual over the state, Buckley will live on.