Americans today are blessed with many, many diverse opinions in print, online and on cable TV. But in the mid-1950s, only a few publications, and none of the three major TV networks, espoused conservative or libertarian opinions. It was a time when most of the nation, especially in power centers such as New York and Washington, D.C., had little beyond the establishmentarian and usually liberal views of major newspapers and TV stations.
That changed in 1955, when William F. Buckley founded National Review magazine. In 1957, Buckley took on William Rusher as publisher. Rusher died April 16, at age 87. Mr. Buckley died in 2008, age 82. Together — along with numerous other editors and contributors — they built National Review into the country’s premier national conservative and libertarian publication.
Buckley was the more visible, giving a flamboyant, polysyllabic persona to the new movement, writing countless columns and books and hosting his TV show, “Firing Line.” Rusher was the “nuts and bolts” publisher who kept the wheels turning behind the scenes.
Beginning in the 1970s, Rusher wrote a column. He also authored several books, including a history of the conservative movement, “The Rise of the Right.” After his retirement in 1988, he moved to San Francisco and was involved with such California institutions as the Claremont Institute, the Pacific Research Institute and the Pacific Legal Foundation.
But maybe his biggest impact was his political organizing. His efforts were key to Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential candidacy, which first showed the influence of the nascent conservative movement. Goldwater lost. But his candidacy, and Rusher’s further efforts, were keys to Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980.
Along with most conservatives and libertarians of those years, the big issue was staving off the march of Soviet communism. Victory was achieved with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Rusher and National Review played a key role in what was a mostly peaceful end to the Soviet era. His efforts should be remembered.