R2K

An excerpt from William F. Buckley, Jr.’s interview with himself on the 1965 New York City mayoral race. Notice how little attention this observant Roman Catholic pays to religion in his outlook or to the “heresy” of radical individualism:

Q. What is it that distinguishes you from these other candidates? Why should only great big brave you consent to run on a program that would really liberate New York, while the other candidates do not?
A. Because the other candidates feel they cannot cope with the legacy of New York politics. That legacy requires the satisfaction of voting blocs, with special attention given to the voting bloc or blocs most fractious at any given election period. But to satisfy voting blocs increasingly requires dissatisfying the constituent members of those same voting blocs in their private capacities. However, since it is more dangerous to dissatisfy organized blocs of voters than individual voters—even if they happen to be members of voting blocs—political candidates in New York address their appeals to the bloc rather than to the individual.

Q. Would you mind being specific?
A. As far as New York politicians are concerned, a New Yorker is an Irishman, an Italian, or a Negro; he is a union member or a white collar worker; a welfare recipient or a city employee; a Catholic or a Protestant or a Jew; a taxi driver or a taxi owner; a merchant or a policeman. The problem is to weigh the voting strength of all the categories and formulate a program that least dissatisfies the least crowded and least powerful categories: and the victory is supposed to go to the most successful bloc Benthamite in the race.

Q. What’s the matter with that?
A. What is the matter with it is that New York is reaching the point where it faces the marginal disutility of bloc satisfaction. The race to satisfy the bloc finally ends in dissatisfying even the individual members of that same bloc. If, for instance, you give taxi owners the right to limit the number of taxis available in the city, people who need taxis to get from where they are to where they want to go can’t find taxis when they most want them. If you allow truck drivers to double-park because it is convenient to them and to the merchants whose goods they are unloading, traffic is snarled and taxi drivers can’t move fast enough to make a decent living. When the traffic is snarled, people stay away from the city and the merchants lose money. If the merchants lose money they want to automate in order to save costs. If the unions don’t let them automate they leave the city. When they leave the city there are fewer people to pay taxes to city officials and to the unemployed. (The unemployed aren’t allowed to drive taxis because the taxi owners share a monopoly.) Taxes have to go up because there are fewer people to pay taxes. The unemployed grow restless, and breed children and crime. The children drop out of school because there isn’t anyone at home to tell them to go to school. Some of the children who go to school make school life intolerable for other children in school, and they leave and go to private schools. The teachers are told they mustn’t discourage the schoolchildren or they will leave the schools and commit crime and unemployment. The unions don’t want the unemployed hired because they will work for less money, or because they are Negroes and Puerto Ricans and obviously can’t lay bricks or wire buildings like white people can, so they are supposed to go off somewhere and just live, and stay out of the way. But they can’t live except in houses, and houses are built by plumbers and electricians who get eight, ten, twelve dollars an hour, which means that people can’t afford to buy houses, or rent apartments, at rates the city can afford to pay its unemployed, so the federal government has to build housing projects. But there aren’t enough housing projects, so there is overcrowding, and family life disintegrates. Some people turn to crime, others to ideology. You can’t walk from one end of New York to another without standing a good chance of losing your wallet, your maidenhead, or your life; or without being told that white people are bigoted, that Negroes are shiftless, that free enterprise is the enemy of the working class, that Norman Thomas has betrayed socialism, and that the only thing that will save New York is for the whole of the United States to become like New York.

Q. What would you do, if you became Mayor of New York?
A. I would treat people as individuals. By depriving the voting blocs of their corporate advantages, I would liberate individual members of those voting blocs.

Imagine that. Treating people as individuals, not as if their identity is bound up with a religion, race, gender, or sex bloc.

Was Buckley the conservative channeling John F. Kennedy, Jr., the first Roman Catholic president, who said that as a public official he would not be beholden to his faith?

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38 thoughts on “R2K

  1. Never minding any religious aspects for the moment, to the heap of compost in voting bloc-plagued NY described by Buckley I would add patronage jobs/voting to the mess that is Chicago (most recently called “Chi-raq” by Spike Lee; otherwise murder capital of the nation). Pay-to-play politics was supposedly declared illegal a number of years ago, but that is how the Illinois Speaker of the House stays in office and gets his way on everything, including continued deficit spending.

    Oh, but if you really want to add religious aspects to it for the record, all of these crooked politicians are Roman Catholics.

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  2. DG: Imagine that. Treating people as individuals, not as if their identity is bound up with a religion, race, gender, or sex bloc.

    how ‘bout not only treating each as an individual, but respecting each individual.

    also, aren’t believers asked to consider this identity each person (regardless of setting): one in-Christ or one not in-Christ , to discern specific application of marching orders Matt 28:18-20

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  3. Ali, when sorting out church membership, sure. But when sorting out political questions? How is that relevant? And how doesn’t it end up reducing those who are in Christ to yet another mere political group–whining about their losses and yelping for advantages?

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  4. Zrim
    Posted October 22, 2015 at 4:47 pm | Permalink
    Ali, when sorting out church membership, sure. But when sorting out political questions? How is that relevant? And how doesn’t it end up reducing those who are in Christ to yet another mere political group–whining about their losses and yelping for advantages?

    That’s the jaundiced view of politics, but the real question is one of the type of community we want to live in and raise our children in. Where Calvin’s Geneva tyrannically governed every facet of daily life, you radical Two Kingdoms people have simply swung to the other radical extreme.

    As for Buckley, according to this very interesting paper, he himself began to shed his own early radical individualism toward a more Catholic-friendly communitarianism ala Ortega y Gasset and Gilbert Chesterton.

    http://is.gd/8g5WxY

    A true conservatism is communitarian, not libertarian. [see p. 60]

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  5. Zrim: Ali, when sorting out church membership, sure.

    That would be the only reason – for sorting out church membership, zrim? Sheesh.

    Anyway, re that, I thought you believed all children of members, are in church membership, so why do you say for sorting out membership?

    People should support, elect, and align themselves in politics with whomever they want (i.e. and hopefully however their consciences guide them)

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  6. Ali, your low church is showing. But Matt 28 seems to assume there are only two groups and is all about bringing the elect from among children of darkness into the light, which is to say the church. The exception are children of believers who occupy a unique position in that they’re baptized members first, then communicant members. Going from one to the other happens during the age of catechesis and sorting that out takes time, effort, and patience.

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  7. Tom “you people”? Persecutor. I’m calling my senator (and Kim Davis) on you. But we’re far from 16thC Geneva anymore, so what do you propose?

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  8. Zrim
    Posted October 22, 2015 at 7:15 pm | Permalink
    Tom “you people”? Persecutor. I’m calling my senator (and Kim Davis) on you. But we’re far from 16thC Geneva anymore, so what do you propose?

    I propose you come up with something in between 16thC Geneva and r2k. The keyword is “community.” To abandon your community to modern libertinism is no different than abandoning it to Calvin’s Consistory. There’s a false dichotomy here between the extremes of theocracy and laissez-faire amorality.

    I also propose Dr. Hart do a little more reading on Bill Buckley such as the piece I linked. People might get the wrong idea.

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  9. Said the guy who flaps in the ecclesiatical breeze like it ain’t no thang and tells those who call him on it to mind their own bees wax. Repent and be saved, Tom (said the laissez-faire amoralist).

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  10. Zrim
    Posted October 22, 2015 at 8:14 pm | Permalink
    Said the guy who flaps in the ecclesiatical breeze like it ain’t no thang and tells those who call him on it to mind their own bees wax. Repent and be saved, Tom (said the laissez-faire amoralist).

    Whatever, brother. You asked, I answered. The topic is Buckley, and Dr. Hart made rather a hash of it.

    http://is.gd/8g5WxY

    A true conservatism is communitarian, not libertarian. [see p. 60]

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  11. zrim, so Calvin is both resonsible for “tyrannically govern[ing] every facet of daily life” and for the U.S. declaration of independence.

    Better call Mark Hall.

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  12. Tom, the question was rhetorical, as in your dichotomy is false. And Buckley isn’t the topic, he’s the jumping off point. True, conservatism is more communitarian than libertarian, but this from the guy who sides with the Kim Davis’s (and bakers and florists) and their inability to suck up individual views for the sake of the larger community project, who champions resistance theory, who says the governed are the real rulers, and (gird thy loins) who doesn’t submit himself to a spiritual community?

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  13. D. G. Hart
    Posted October 22, 2015 at 9:16 pm | Permalink
    zrim, so Calvin is both resonsible for “tyrannically govern[ing] every facet of daily life” and for the U.S. declaration of independence.

    Dr. Calvinism: It’s All About mmeeeEEEE!, is Mr. Zrim that stupid that he falls for these dissemblings?

    Zrim
    Posted October 22, 2015 at 9:42 pm | Permalink
    Tom, the question was rhetorical, as in your dichotomy is false. And Buckley isn’t the topic, he’s the jumping off point. True, conservatism is more communitarian than libertarian, but this from the guy who sides with the Kim Davis’s (and bakers and florists) and their inability to suck up individual views for the sake of the larger community project, who champions resistance theory, who says the governed are the real rulers, and (gird thy loins) who doesn’t submit himself to a spiritual community?

    I’ll ignore the boring personal attack and be happy at least you somewhat got the point about communitarianism. Please instruct Dr. Hart, because you illustrate how his post is gravely underinformed.

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  14. Zrim: Going from one to the other happens during the age of catechesis and sorting that out takes time, effort, and patience.

    By ‘sorting that out’, you mean the Lord opening hearts to respond to His Word (Acts 16:14)?

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  15. TVD: As for Buckley, according to this very interesting paper, he himself began to shed his own early radical individualism toward a more Catholic-friendly communitarianism ala Ortega y Gasset and Gilbert Chesterton.

    Please. Buckley was a brilliant polemicist. I started reading him when I was in junior high school, but by the time I graduated from college I had learned enough political philosophy to recognize that he could make a temperamental case against the shortcomings of modernity, but not a sustained intellectual case that contributed anything to the conversation. Other than being an admirer of Revolt of The Masses and acfrequent quoter of iit, he relied on others- such as (wait for it) Garry Wills to do the heavy lifting.

    Buckley is said to have made the observation sometime in hiscprime that he knew he was quick, but doubted that he was deep. He tried at one point to produce a work that would have made a contribution to the ongoing discussion being carried on by the likes of OyG, Strauss, Weaver, Voegelin, Gilson and others, but never finished it.

    To say from the source you cite that DGH gets Buckley wrong is just bizarre. The material that DGH linked is accurate and Buckley never repudiated a word of it. Why not answer the question DGH posed?

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  16. (A different) Dan
    Posted October 22, 2015 at 11:21 pm | Permalink
    TVD: As for Buckley, according to this very interesting paper, he himself began to shed his own early radical individualism toward a more Catholic-friendly communitarianism ala Ortega y Gasset and Gilbert Chesterton.

    DAN: Please. Buckley was a brilliant polemicist. I started reading him when I was in junior high school, but by the time I graduated from college I had learned enough political philosophy to recognize that he could make a temperamental case against the shortcomings of modernity, but not a sustained intellectual case that contributed anything to the conversation.

    Not a temperamental case against modernity. The essential case against modernity. The polemical case against modernity, secularism. God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of “Academic Freedom” is a polemic.

    You do realize that Darryl G. Hart is a polemicist too, no more or less? A self-declared “conservative” who only attacks Christians and Republicans. Billy Graham and Sarah Palin betrayed conservatism?

    From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelicals and the Betrayal of American Conservatism Hardcover – July 7, 2011

    Your call, Dan. The real question is who betrayed Christianity, who has betrayed the Bible. Who betrayed “conservatism?” Who cares? Billy Graham and Sarah Palin are the least of mankind’s problems either politically or theologically.

    Darryl. Dude. I know it’s just a book title, but

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  17. Yes, ADD, WFB didn’t have it in him for higher level studies or sitting down to write The Big Book on political philosophy, but we have several to choose from already.

    But he did present a good point of view in very entertaining ways and I am grateful he took that path, it was helpful for my formative years.

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  18. Kent, Up From Liberalism is a fine book, one that I found prescient as I lived through the turmoil of the 60’s. But, if I had a hammer, I would still find more productive uses for my time than trying to nail TVD’s jello to the wall (and I am flat out of nails.) ( No reference to a folk song intended). I think you have gotten the point I was making.

    TVD, the guy who taught Political Behavior my Junior Year made a statement that has stayed with me ever since: Every author has an agenda, it is your job as a reader to figure out what it is. DGH more than adequately defends himself, but having read 5 of his books, I have found that he plays his cards face up. I do not always agree with him. We had a public exchange on this blog about issues I had with From Billy to Sara. If DGH is a polemicist, isn’t Marsden? Noll? Ballmer? Worthen? My crusty old prof would be very comfortable in agreeing that there is not a view from nowhere, particularly where religion and religious history is concerned.

    BTW, the piece about Buckley you linked to seems to be referring to a work that Buckley tried to write in 1963 He ran for Mayor in 1965. Still think DGH gets him wrong? He left babsolutely no published trace of the sort of intellectual move you have posited. I think a good bit of this is covered in John Judis’ fine biography, which includes an excellent summary of his important relationship with Garry Wills during this period.

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  19. Dan, demanded and received the Judis bio for my Christmas present when i was 17, family shrugged and didn’t say much about it.

    Hope you saw “the movie” a few times recently, the artsy cinemaaaaaaaaaaaa house a few blocks from the office showed it for a few weeks.

    Bill hung around older men who had been diehard Communists (of various flavours) who saw the light in their middle age and outcast profs.

    And he gave Didion, Wills and Kinsley their big breaks in life, and what thanks was there?

    I like TVD, i have a lot in common with him, I’ll pay attention to his comments on the conservative political scene, anyone published a few times in the American Spectator is good to me, religion a lot less.

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  20. Kent, your reply would normally elicit a few remarks, but I am leaving in a minute and expect I will be mostly out of the loop for the next few days. One quick thought, I would suggest that in Buckley’s prime, the fusion that he helped create between ex-Trotskyites, Cold Warriors and traditional agrarian– type (not the best word to use, but I am in a hurry) was inherently unstable. The tensions were largely papered over by a consensus on public policy issues. The question can still be asked– is there an American Conservatism? I am far from the first person to make this observation. Perhaps you can ponder a statement that might be just a bit of a paraphrase of a statement that Eric Voegelin made when asked to appear at or contribute a paper to some cause or other that was billed as conservative: Just because I’m smart enough to not be a liberal doesn’t mean I am dumb enough to be a conservative.

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  21. (A different) Dan
    Posted October 23, 2015 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    TVD, the guy who taught Political Behavior my Junior Year made a statement that has stayed with me ever since: Every author has an agenda, it is your job as a reader to figure out what it is. DGH more than adequately defends himself, but having read 5 of his books, I have found that he plays his cards face up. I do not always agree with him. We had a public exchange on this blog about issues I had with From Billy to Sara. If DGH is a polemicist, isn’t Marsden? Noll? Ballmer? Worthen?

    Now you’re getting it.

    http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2011/05/mark-noll-when-historians-attack.html

    As for Dr. Polemic: A Calvinism playing his cards “face up” this

    D. G. Hart
    Posted October 22, 2015 at 9:16 pm | Permalink
    zrim, so Calvin is both resonsible for “tyrannically govern[ing] every facet of daily life” and for the U.S. declaration of independence.

    deals from the bottom of the deck.

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  22. Kent, sorry for the interruption in our conversation, but life does happen. The Judis’ book is excellent, and will probably be the standard for a long time. I have not seen the movie, but will be on the lookout for it.

    The point I was making in my 10/23 response is really the gravamen of my major criticism criticism of DGH’s from Billy to Sarah book, which he and I discussed a few month’s back in one thread or another (and it is a much better book than TVD would have you believe.) Basically, I do not think that there was ever an American Conservatism to be betrayed (the subtitle of the book), but an unstable post WWII coalition. That this coalition was very tenuous after the end of the cold war is a commonplace point; less accepted is the plain and simple fact that with the neo-cons reaction to Mel Bradford’s nomination to the NEH by Reagan in 1980, paleocons were unceremoniously read out of the coalition- though some of them haven’t realized it to this day. (A good bit about this controversy can probably be found on Google. For the record, I do not object to much if someone calls me a paleo-con, but Bradford was comfortable being called an agrarian– I’m not. )

    To use shorthand, in my opinion, the American Civil Religion makes an American Conservatism Impossible. Could one have developed? My own opinion is that nothing in the founding era made it impossible, but that the way history unfolded after 1815 foreclosed whatever chances there were. That the period 1815-1846 is under studied compared to the founding and the civil war era is ununfortunate. I posted a link to an article that you might find of interest in the Speaking of Using History thread from last week. A lot of fundamental choices were made in those years, some that could have been different if some of the closest elections we have had had turned out differently. (If you are interested in the period, the Howe book cited is excellent. There is a more novel book that hardly anyone has paid attention to that ends in 1828 and starts with the founding, Walter McDougall’s Freedom Just Around the Corner, that I think supports my point. It is a very enjoyable read, which is probably why it has been ignored.)

    Back to religion and Buckley, I think his traditional Catholicism combined with his very elite education, made it very difficult for him to appreciate either the explosive power or amorphous nature of our civil religion. I think Voegelin got it and saw the utopianism in our cultural DNA that could shift from right to left in a heartbeat. I do not mean in any way to denigrate the man, who I admired from my teen years, but I think his failure to produce “the big book” is indicative.

    Sorry for the delay, and I recognize that despite its length there might not be all that much to respond to, particularly since I am watching Kansas City just finish sending nine men to the plate in the fifth inning.

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  23. TVD, not sure if you have any interest in continuing on this topic or not, OK either way. I am back to my regular OL reading habits, which are somewhat irregular, but I will check back in a day or so to see if you have any other thoughts.

    First, I am not sure what it is that I am now getting that I didn’t get. If it is that history is inevitably interpreted differently at different times and that historians works are sometimes colored by the temptation to use it for polemical purposes, I learned that from the false treatment given reconstruction in my 8th grade history text. (Basically, the experiences of my ancestors in East Tennessee bore no resemblance to the Redeemer friendly treatment given in the State approved text, and the contrary facts were easily available at the local library, and well known to many in the community). When I was in college, I became interested in historiography, so I have never seriously tried to study any particular period without having some idea of the disputes that were live(both in the political and academic arenas) at the time a work was written. I think you are sophisticated enough to at least partially agree with this point. Maybe one large difference between us is that I am not mad at anyone. I read for enjoyment. My own political and religious beliefs would be distinctly a minority view in any crowd, and I have long accepted that and managed to live a good life. Some might even say that, except for some health issues, I have flourished. (Emoticon)

    But if the point of that remark is limited to the sub discipline of American Religious History, then, after going last week to your posted link, I find a great deal of irony. You stated in a comment: “So if we are to put Mark Noll down at the level of Eric Foner as a polemicist, well, I reckon that is my point. This does not mean we discard Foner or Noll or Joseph Ellis [see link at the top of my original post] as liars or bogus historians; it does mean that they themselves, through their extracurricular writings, have put a red flag on their own scholarly work, that we must read them skeptically instead of with trust.” DGH can speak for himself, but after reading several of his published books, I am not so sure that he would say you are all that far off the mark. (No pun with Noll’s name intended). I first read the books that Noll and Marsden made their bones on in the 2000-2003 period, and I thought then that they were stacking the deck by, for example, excluding a lot of 19th century expressions of Christianity that would be considered Evangelical by people that lived in those times. That Marsden’s Kuyperism is now as overt as Noll’s hostility to people like Falwell comes as no surprise to me. Yet they are the ones who get to define who is Evangelical and who isn’t. I think they have been getting away with it far too long. At least implicitly, DGH seems to be challenging some of those assumptions.

    Finally, when I said DGH played with his cards on the table face up, I was specifically referring to his published books and articles. His drive by shootings on this (or other) blogs do not color that judgement at all. I sometimes enjoy your posts, but I would enjoy them more without the rancor. But this comment has been entirely too much about me.

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  24. Hi Dan:

    Nothing wrong with paleo-con as a name, but I haven’t seen it mentioned since late 1980s essays in Chronicles magazine, before that group went into a spin.

    And I remember neos used to be those who abandoned their serious embrace of Communism (in some form) from their student days in the Depression. Then it became defined as Jewish intellectuals and government employees who were incorporating Leo Strauss into rabid support for invasions of the Middle East. That was disconcerting on a few levels.

    Bill’s influences were an interesting mixed bag of characters.

    And it is a completely different matter running things than being on the sidelines pointing out wise and good theories for the enjoyment of a better life. Compromise is always the key to public life, only ideas can hold their purity. Especially in the church.

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  25. Nothing wrong with paleo-con as a name, but I haven’t seen it mentioned since late 1980s essays in Chronicles magazine, before that group went into a spin.

    For a detailed description of each of the groups within the Reagan coalition take a look at Keeping The Tablets by Buckley and Kesler. It was published in 1988 and has a fair assessment of each group including the Chronicles crowd.

    And I remember neos used to be those who abandoned their serious embrace of Communism (in some form) from their student days in the Depression.

    Here you are talking about the folks like Irving Kristol but also Allan Bloom, Harry Jaffa and others who opposed the New Deal (rightly) after having helped implement it both from the academy and in government. Many came from the New School in NY where they new each and Strauss before he went to Chicago. They were united by their opposition to communism, but with the notable exception of Jaffa (Strauss’ best and most faithful student) they never embraced historic American limited government constitutionalism.

    They also had – and their heirs still have – the sense that federalism and true states’ rights have the whiff of the Confederacy about them. And it’s why the divide between the neos and paleos was so acrimonious – at least it’s one of the reasons. But the neos carried the day when they allied with the Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party int he form of the Bushes. But that group of neos – most of whom were so-called “east coast Straussians” – a distinct school from the west coasters – got Strauss wrong. As you note below.

    Then it became defined as Jewish intellectuals and government employees who were incorporating Leo Strauss into rabid support for invasions of the Middle East.

    The guys like Paul Wolfowitz who cited Strauss – notably his “On Tyranny” – had what we might call an over-realized eschatology. I am of the opinion that there were good strategic reasons for pursuing war in Iraq (we don’t have to rehash that here) but citing Strauss is a bridge too far.

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  26. Thanks, Publius, did we all get the same books from the Conservative Book Society?

    Good to see there are 3 or 4 others in the world who had the same reading list I did in my early 20s

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  27. Kent –

    I studied under Jaffa and Kesler as an undergrad and as a grad student and remained friends with Harry until he died and am still friends with Kesler. So when I saw someone mention Voeglin and Strauss/Cropsey I had to get involved in the discussion.

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  28. Public –

    AWESOME! I wanted to study this at school but the family would only support a science, engineering, or business undergrad education.

    So I took a few years off due to illness to read heavily in these area for the last years of the Reagan Administration.

    My big pink Strauss/Cropsey is well underlined, third edition.

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  29. Kent – I wanted to go into academia but realized in grad school that it wasn’t for me and went into business. But the education has been worth its weight in gold.

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  30. Re: the Buckley flic….

    i may have mentioned it, and hope this doesn’t get drowned out by the usual noise on here.

    The worst blunder of the film was mentioning Buckley and Mailer running for mayor of NYC in the same level of seriousness as Vidal for the House

    It was kind of a joke for the mayoral candidates, but Vidal thought he would use his Kennedy ties to escalate his House win into the Senate and who knows from there? He was easily defeated in a Don Draper first home area and got very bitter about the whole thing and left the country.

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