Conservative Leader William Rusher Dies—Let’s Learn From Someone Who Sometimes Got The Better Of Us
Conservative political leader William Rusher has died at the age of 87.
Mr. Rusher was a columnist and activist who played a prominent part in the gains of American conservatism over the past 50 years. Mr. Rusher played a leading role for many years for the important conservative magazine The National Review.
Portions of Mr. Rusher’s obituary from the New York Times are worth considering.
From the Times–
“Mr. Rusher championed postwar conservatism as a mainstream political movement that first tasted national success in the Republican presidential nomination of Barry M. Goldwater in 1964, and fulfilled its dream with the election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980.”
Mr. Rusher was a vocal conservative who trumpeted his cause when his views were not widely held. He stuck with his beliefs and realized great victories.
“He and two colleagues founded the draft-Goldwater movement in 1961. With other prominent conservatives, he opposed the re-election of Richard M. Nixon in 1972 because of the president’s overtures to China. He started a third party that faltered in 1976, and was an adviser in Reagan’s presidential campaign four years later.”
Mr. Rusher was willing to go against his party for his beliefs. You have to be willing to chart your own course.
“… in 1975, Mr. Rusher explained how (a third-party) might work. “The only practical solution, therefore, is for conservative Republicans (broadly represented by Reagan) and conservative Democrats (most of whom have in the past supported Wallace)” — a reference to Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama — “to join forces in a new majority party, designed to win both the Presidency and Congress and replace the G.O.P. in toto as one of America’s two major parties.” In 1976, putting his ideas into practice, Mr. Rusher and several colleagues founded the New Majority Party. But it collapsed that summer at a convention in Chicago after a rival group pushed through the presidential nomination of Lester G. Maddox, the former governor of Georgia and an avowed segregationist.”
Mr. Rusher was right that there more conservatives than people realized. And he thought big. The emergence of the Tea Party has not replaced the Republican Party, but it has, for the moment at least, changed how Republicans operate. Mr. Rusher saw that one of the two major parties could be challenged. Of course, as we are dealing with the American right, the nomination of Lester Maddox in 1976 is a perfectly apt cautionary tale right up the current day.
“…He ended his syndicated column in 2009. “Undoubtedly,” he wrote in a farewell, “the most important single factor in the growth of conservatism has been the realization, on the part of individual conservatives, that their views were shared by others, and constituted collectively a formidable national influence.”
This is just so important. Winning elections and swaying the political debate can hinge on committed everyday people thinking things out and taking action. This was one way, along with the support of billionaires, that the Tea Party made an impact in 2010. It was a sense that things could different that helped Barack Obama win in 2008. In my view, there is no ideological majority in the United States. There are many factors that impact elections. But one of the most important things, and one thing every person can control, is what effort individuals make for their beliefs.
There can be no doubt that conservatives and the far-right have won many battles in the half-century since the early 1960’s. Just as liberals and progressives have won many battles. There are many battles ahead and we all have the ability to take part and move forward. Let’s take to heart the lessons of a man who sometimes got the better of us.