Sen. Jim Buckley set an example of the excellence America always needs

For a reminder of the surprises politics can hold even in hyperliberal New York, look no further than Jim Buckley’s victory in the 1970 US Senate race on the Conservative Party line for the seat once held by liberal icon Bobby Kennedy.

It wasn’t just the first third-party Senate win in decades, it was a shocking right-wing victory in a state whose top Republican officeholders (then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, then-Mayor John Lindsay) were left-of-center.

And, as Herb Stupp, who led Youth for Buckley that year, recalls at of the Election Night celebration, “The New York Times reported that the grand ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria was filled with a ‘sea of young people,’ not the blue-haired ladies they were expecting.”

And Buckley’s comments that night still (or again) hold: “The American people want a new course; they want a new politics.”

As National Review’s Jack Fowler notes, “He paused for the slightest moment, then added, ‘And I am the voice for the new politics.’ A roar ensued. Would that we could roar again to such a man, and such a promise.”

Buckley’s win proved a harbinger of future right-of-center wins in New York, not least Ronald Reagan’s carrying the state in 1980 as Al D’Amato won a Senate seat.

Then again: Buckley, a Navy veteran of Leyte and Okinawa who died Friday at 100, was as remarkable as his younger brother Bill: Among much else, he was one of the few Americans ever to serve near the top in all three branches of the federal government: legislative in the Senate, executive (in the Reagan State Department and as head of Radio Free Europe) and judicial (15 years on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals).

The nation is blessed for his service; let us hope it still bears his like.

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