Conservative author and commentator William F. Buckley (1925-2008) was asked, in 1967, whom he would support in 1968 for U.S. president. Buckley responded with what would late be called the ‘Buckley Rule” for primary voting: “The wisest choice would be the one who would win. No sense running Mona Lisa in a beauty contest. I’d be for the most right, viable candidate who could win. If you could convince me that Barry Goldwater could win, I’d vote for him.”
The term “Buckley Rule” wouldn’t be popularly used until the 2000s, but the language “rightward-most viable candidate” (not the exact words) has been often repeated. The word “viable”—a candidate who is the most likely to win the general election—adds an element of pragmatism to the conservative philosophy.
Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh disagreed with the “Buckley Rule” and established a new “Limbaugh Rule” on September 14, 2010. Limbaugh said that it requires clairvoyance to determine who will win the general election, so one should just simply vote for the most conservative candidate.
Wikipedia: William F. Buckley, Jr.
William Frank Buckley, Jr. (November 24, 1925 – February 27, 2008) was an American conservative author and commentator. He founded the political magazine National Review in 1955, hosted 1,429 episodes of the television show Firing Line from 1966 until 1999, and was a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist. His writing style was famed for its erudition, wit, and use of uncommon words.
George H. Nash, a historian of the modern American conservative movement, believed that Buckley was “arguably the most important public intellectual in the United States in the past half century”. “For an entire generation he was the preeminent voice of American conservatism and its first great ecumenical figure.” Buckley’s primary change to politics was the fusion of traditional American political conservatism with laissez-faire economic theory and anti-communism, laying the groundwork for the modern American conservatism of U.S. presidential candidates Barry Goldwater and President Ronald Reagan.
Buckley wrote first God and Man at Yale (1951); among over fifty further books on writing, speaking, history, politics and sailing, were a series of novels featuring CIA agent Blackford Oakes. Buckley referred to himself as either a libertarian or conservative. He resided in New York City and Stamford, Connecticut. He was a practicing Roman Catholic, regularly attending the traditional Latin Mass in Connecticut.
Google News Archive
18 April 1967, Miami (FL) News, “A Trip Into Idea Land With Bill Buckley” by Bill Barry, pg. 6A, col. 5:
He (William F. Buckley, Jr.—ed.) was asked who would be the wisest Republican choice.
He said: “The wisest choice would be the one who would win. No sense running Mona Lisa in a beauty contest. I’d be for the most right, viable candidate who could win. If you could convince me that Barry Goldwater could win, I’d vote for him.”
Richard Nixon, he said, would be the strongest GOP candidate.
Why Americans Hate Politics
By E. J. Dionne
New York, NY: Simon and Schuster
Buckley himself later explained his support for Nixon in the language of a pragmatic ideologue. “I’d be for the most right, viable candidate who could win,” Buckley told the Miami News in 1967.
“The Rightward-Most Viable Candidate”
Posted by Andy Naselli on Oct 19, 2007 in politics
There’s a lot of wisdom in William F. Buckley Jr.‘s famous rule of thumb for voting: “the rightward-most viable candidate.”
The Inundated Calvinist
Thursday, May 01, 2008
Who I’m Supporting
Some of my friends have asked who I’m supporting in the upcoming primary elections. Based on the ballot locally, here’s my slate:
President: John McCain - I’ve never been an enthusiastic supporter, but I follow William F. Buckley’s rule—vote for the rightwardmost viable candidate. Yes, I know Paul is still out there, but he’s not going anywhere. McCain is the man this year. Obama and Clinton are not.
Rumors of a civil war among Republicans
November 4, 2009 Posted by Scott at 7:59 AM
Buckley’s rule of prudence dictated the support of the rightward-most viable candidate in any given race. Once Republicans learned that Scozzafava was a liberal, and that they had a viable conservative alternative in Doug Hoffman, they left Scozzafava in droves. In my view, the wish is father to the thought that the story of New York’s 23rd Congressional District special election represents a civil war among Republicans.
The American Spectator
The Scott Heard ‘Round the World
By Robert Stacy McCain on 1.18.10 @ 6:08AM
Nelson H.| 1.18.10 @ 9:46AM
It would do you well to recall Bill Buckley’s rule for selecting candidates: the rightwardmost viable candidate. Kennedy is not viable. While a lot of us are very sympathetic toward libertarian thought across many issues (particularly economics) there simply isn’t room for two parties on the Right. What you need to do is win over the GOP on specific policies one by one, much as the old Socialist party won over the Democrats in decades past.
St. Louis Tea Party Coalition
Liberty or Tyranny: The Choice is Ours
Written by Bill Hennessy on July 28, 2010
On November 2, I will follow the advice of the wisest man I every met, William F. Buckley Jr. Buckley’s rule for picking a candidate was simple: “Always support the rightward-most, viable candidate.”
Riehl World View
NRO’s Castle Only R To Back Obama, Slam SCOTUS On Campaign Finance Reform
The Buckley rule of voting for the most Conservative/ Electable candidate still applies. But you have to balance that with the Dan Riehl rule of when Republicans get back in power they better get off their asses and act like conservatives.
Christine seems like she has mud on her shoes, but Castle is a weak DIABLO, so I leave this one in the hands of Delaware Republicans to do the right thing on.
Posted by: Joe | Tuesday, September 07, 2010 at 07:25 PM
The Limbaugh Rule: Vote for Most Conservative Candidate in Primary
September 14, 2010
We still have people who think that professional Washington politicians are the way to fix this, and clearly it isn’t. Some of these people are citing the Buckley Rule. Now, I can honestly say that I know what the Buckley Rule is. I can honestly say I knew William F. Buckley and Buckley was a friend of mine. The Buckley Rule is, ostensibly, that you vote for the most electable conservative option against a Democrat in November. You vote for the Republican, slash, conservative who can win. To me, this requires clairvoyance, as is being currently applied in the Mike Castle-Christine O’Donnell race in Delaware, to use an example. The polling data is that Castle will win big and O’Donnell will lose big. If she gets the Republican nomination today, if she wins the election she’ll lose big. The polls say she’ll lose by 25 points; that Castle will win by 20 points. But who knows this? The election’s a long time off. In a year like this, it seems to me that Americanism versus socialism can make up 25 points. Why the hell not try to? Is what I don’t understand. Why not try to make up the 25 points?
RUSH: Let me expand a little bit here on the Limbaugh Rule, which needs to take over from the Buckley Rule. You know, some of these people on our side—who all of a sudden now—lovingly invoke the Buckley Rule are the same people who told us, “The era of Reagan is over.” Well, Bill Buckley and Ronald Reagan were inseparably good friends. Isn’t the era of Buckley over? Isn’t it amazing how selectively these people call up some of our heroes and use little slivers of what they’ve said or believed? Buckley ran against a RINO Republican for mayor of New York knowing full well he had no chance of winning. He violated his own rule then! “Buckley says you vote for the Republican most likely to win.”
New York City • Government/Law/Politics/Military • (2) Comments • Tuesday, September 14, 2010 • Permalink
Limbaugh’s Rule is ideological, whereas Buckley’s Rule is pragmatic. Wishful thinking is nice, but the house always wins. Even from the beyond grave, Buckley is still the wiser man.
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