Pubdate: Sat, 1 Mar 2008
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2008 The New York Times Company
Page: 2, Section B
Author: Sam Roberts
Bookmark: (William F. 
Buckley Jr.)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Rockefeller Drug Laws)


Christopher Buckley never fully recovered from his father's mayoral
campaign in 1965.

Mr. Buckley, barely a teenager then, vividly remembers distributing
bumper stickers on the Upper East Side for his father, William F. Buckley Jr.

"A 13-year-old girl walked by and, smiling sweetly, asked me if she
could have all 50 of them," he recalled. "I gave them to her. She tore
them to pieces, stuck her tongue out at me and sneered, 'I HATE
Buckley!' " That childhood trauma, he said, left him, like his father,
with a permanent twitch.

William F. Buckley Jr., who died on Feb. 27 at the age of 82, also
left a permanent political legacy, not only elsewhere in the country
in fostering a movement that began with Barry Goldwater and soared
under Ronald Reagan, but also in New York.

His quixotic, sometimes comic and short-lived mayoral campaign, which
might have been dismissed as a mere blink of an eye, unintentionally
helped elevate one of New York's last unabashed liberals, John V.
Lindsay, a Republican, by drawing votes from conservative whites
(forerunners of the "Reagan Democrats") at the expense of Abraham D.
Beame, the Democrat.

But Mr. Buckley was also instrumental in transforming the fledgling
state Conservative Party into a formidable instrument that helped
depose another liberal Republican icon, Senator Jacob K. Javits, and
helped thwart the national ambitions of the conservatives' nemesis,
Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller.

Mr. Buckley's campaign laid the groundwork for the successful
candidacies of Senator Alfonse M. D'Amato, Gov. George E. Pataki and,
arguably, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani; proved pivotal in contested
legislative and congressional races; and even contributed to the
virtual demise of its archrival, the Liberal Party.

Mr. Buckley's 1965 candidacy, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said this
week, "will live on as one of the defining mayoral campaigns of the
city's history."

Mr. Lindsay was the last self-proclaimed ideological liberal mayor of
New York for whom the Liberal Party provided the victory margin. To
the Conservatives, he was the personification of the progressive reach
of Rockefeller Republicanism that Mr. Buckley, J. Daniel Mahoney,
Kieran O'Doherty and a handful of other conservatives had banded
together in 1961 to squelch. Mr. Mahoney and Mr. O'Doherty,
brothers-in-law, were the co-founders of the statewide Conservative
Party of New York

A teasing "Buckley for Mayor" headline on the cover of his National
Review transformed a hypothetical platform (legalize drugs for adults,
abolish welfare for everyone except invalids and mothers caring for
young children, eliminate busing as a vehicle for racial integration)
into a more or less serious campaign.

Asked at his second press conference what he would do first if
elected, he replied, "Demand a recount."

He described Manhattan's most Republican neighborhood, Mr. Lindsay's
Upper East Side base, as "the densest national concentration of
vegetarians, pacifists, hermaphrodites, junkies, Communists, Randites,
clam-juice-and-betel-nut eaters."

"The differences between Mr. Beame and Mr. Lindsay are biological, not
political," Mr. Buckley said, by which he meant, "Mr. Beame is short
and Mr. Lindsay is tall."

Kieran Mahoney, who is J. Daniel Mahoney's son and a strategist known
for a bare-knuckle brand of politics, was 8 years old in 1965. He
remembers grabbing an armful of leaflets from a Lindsay for Mayor
storefront and dumping them in a garbage can outside. Instead of being
congratulated, he was admonished by his unfailingly gentlemanly father
- -- an admonition that might very well suggest the origins of
compassionate conservatism.

"There was a real effort to demonize the right, to treat it as
barbaric," Mr. Mahoney recalled. "You couldn't watch Bill Buckley
conduct himself and honestly believe that."

In 1970, in a three-way race against Richard L. Ottinger, a Democrat,
and Charles E. Goodell, the Republican incumbent who had been
appointed to succeed Robert F. Kennedy after his assassination, Mr.
Buckley's brother James L. was elected to the United States Senate
from New York on the Conservative line.

A decade later, Mr. Javits was delivered a stunning defeat in the
Republican primary by Mr. D'Amato, who went on to win the Senate seat
on the Republican, Conservative and Right to Life party lines against
Mr. Javits, who remained as the Liberal nominee, and Elizabeth
Holtzman, the Democrat.

Statewide, the Conservative Party delivered Mr. Reagan's winning
margins in 1980 and 1984 and Mr. Pataki's in 1994 -- but none since.

The Conservative Party has outlived the Liberals, who no longer even
qualify for an automatic line on the state ballot. And when you look
at what is left of the Republicans in New York, says Michael Long, the
Conservative state chairman, "we're very much needed."

"We're still the only voice that speaks out strongly on social issues
and for smaller government and lower taxes," he says. "We're the only
party that is united on the sanctity of marriage."

Still, you can argue that New York is now less a liberal bastion than
when Mr. Buckley made his political debut. The Conservatives may have
become victims of their own success. "You look at some of the major
issues in the mid-1990s -- crime, the bloated welfare state," Mr.
Mahoney says. "Policies have been put in place that have eradicated or
dramatically altered the issues."

Republicans have now been elected mayor of New York for four
consecutive terms. Public pornography has become so rare that we've
established a Museum of Sex. A so-called "worship tax" was repealed so
New Yorkers could spend all day attending church instead of
interrupting their sanctity of Sunday to feed parking meters. Gay
couples, according to the state's highest court, cannot legally marry.

Is liberalism dead in New York?

"The key," Christopher Buckley has said, "will be how many people
start arriving at Lincoln Center in pickups with gun racks."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake