If we had to name one person who had the biggest impact on movement conservatism, it would have to be William F. Buckley Jr.
Before joining the cause, it was being led by cranky old men, but Buckley was able to inspire young people to become political activists.
Stephen Harper once said that the term 'Progressive Conservative', was an oxymoron. I suppose he was right.
However, "movement conservatism" or the "new conservative", also fit that description.
While they did fight for the status quo, especially in terms of whites being supreme, and the rich maintaining their role as the ruling class, they also wanted to radically change traditional conservatism.
Most radical movements were bottom up, with the poor and downtrodden overthrowing the self serving elite class. But this one is top down, with the elite class manipulating the poor and downtrodden to secure their positions, and not only hold on to their wealth, but add to it, often at the expense of those suffering the most.
When the Reform Party was first establishing itself as a party for the people, Stephen Harper shocked a reporter when he blurted out "It's amazing what you can get them [the members] to do once you convince them that it's the leader who is telling them".
Rebel in Reverse
In 1951, Time Magazine ran a story on William Buckley Jr., referring to him as a "rebel in reverse, a fire-eating youthful conservative". (1) His first book, God and Man at Yale, had just been published, and was causing a few shock waves in the academic world.
Buckley accused American universities, in particular Yale, of "sabotaging God" and trying to destroy Capitalism.
"Presenters and participants are caught on tape advocating for the creation of front groups for the Conservative Party to masquerade as non-partisan grassroots organizations, influencing the political discourse on campus, stacking student elections with Party members, and conspiring to defeat non-profit organizations because of political differences, all with the intention of hiding their affiliations to the Party in the process. ... Sometimes you can't attach the party's name to something. You just can't. If it's a really controversial issue on campus or something that might show up in the newspaper, you want to be careful. You just have your shell organization and have the Campus Coalition for Liberty and two other Tory front groups which are front organizations, all of those groups might actually qualify for funding too," said Ryan O'Connor, a workshop facilitator and former member of the OPCCA. (2)
Retired university professor Michael Yates has written extensively on the topic and says that he's glad he left academia before the worst of it: "At least I did not have to face the nasty right-wing students who spy on their professors and do the bidding of the professional witch hunters who spew hatred on radio talk shows, and television programs." It's a new form of McCarthyism.
Recently, two Canadian university professors, complained that they were being targeted.
Two University of Ottawa professors, vocal critics of the federal Conservative government, say they have become targets of a new political intimidation tactic, aimed at using their private, personal information against them. Professors Errol Mendes and Amir Attaran, frequently castigated as Liberal sympathizers by the Conservatives, were notified in recent weeks of two unusually massive freedom-of-information requests at the University of Ottawa, demanding details of the professors’ employment, expenses and teaching records. (4)All part of "movement conservatism", better defined as "radical conservatism". How's that for an oxymoron?
The Foundation of Movement Conservatism is Money
The reason for the success of movement conservatism, is that it was always well funded. Often dubbed the "revolt of the rich", those at the top were way at the top. Buckley himself came from a wealthy family, who made most of their money in oil.
His equally wealthy associates sponsored a magazine of "conservative" ideas, called the National Review, where Buckley, before learning to speak in code, rallied the white folks, even promoting the use of violence if necessary, to keep blacks in their place. (5)
Eventually they took over a big chunk of the media, but their biggest success came from something they had decided on six decades ago. They knew then that to be really successful they would have to take over one of the major political parties, and set their sights on the Republicans.