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Rusher at 100: Realism for the 21st Century

(June 23, 2023—revised December 21, 2023) William Rusher, a dynamic force on the American right who passed away in 2011 after decades as comrade and mentor to many conservatives, was born a full century ago on July 19, 1923. His centenary comes at a hard time for...

Book Presentation: “If Not Us, Who?” by David B. Frisk

Click to watch the presentation of "If Not Us, Who?" by David Frisk to the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC on C-SPAN. David Frisk's book, If Not Us, Who?: William Rusher, 'National Review,' and the Conservative Movement, offers a comprehensive exploration of the...

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“If Not Us, Who?”

If Not Us, Who? takes you on a journey into the life of William Rusher, a key player in shaping the modern conservative movement. Known for his long stint as the publisher of National Review, Rusher wasn't just a publisher—he was a crucial strategist and thinker in...

William Rusher was an influential political strategist, commentator, and debater at the heart of the conservative movement in the second half of the twentieth century, a movement whose ascent he documented in his 1984 book The Rise of the Right — one of many examples of the shrewd, resolute, clear-eyed perspective for which he is remembered.

Early Life

Rusher was born on July 19, 1923, and grew up in the New York City area. He attended Princeton University, where he deepened his passion for political engagement. After serving in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II, he went on to graduate from Harvard Law School, where he founded and led the Harvard Young Republicans. 

After nine years with a major corporate law firm in New York, Mr. Rusher found his true calling: rallying Americans opposed to liberal political dominance into a formidable force capable of challenging the status quo. 

Contributions

In 1957, Rusher was invited by William F. Buckley Jr. to serve as publisher of National Review, a new magazine that quickly gained prominence, articulating conservative principles and challenging the prevailing liberal ideology. From that point on, Rusher was a constant, persuasive, and bold presence in American political discourse, solidifying his status as a respected conservative intellectual with an active public speaking schedule on campuses and elsewhere and as a formidable guest on early conservative talk radio. He later became a syndicated newspaper columnist and the right’s main representative on the PBS debate show “The Advocates.” He was also a leading organizational and strategic figure in the conservative movement. At the same time, he continued as publisher of his beloved National Review until age 65 in 1988.

Ideals

Rusher was a strong proponent of limited government and capitalism, anticommunism and a robust national defense, and conservative social values. His influence extended well beyond his writings, first as a mentor and organizer of conservatives in the Young Republican National Federation and Young Americans for Freedom, and then as a key player in the founding of the Goldwater for President movement. During a crucial period in the 1970s, he was central in efforts to unite as many conservative voters as possible in order to win the presidency and eventually a majority in Congress. His strategic acumen, strong character, and unwavering commitment to its principles earned him a deep, lasting, nearly unanimous respect and admiration in the conservative movement.

Throughout his life, Rusher remained devoted to advancing conservative ideals, opposing communism and liberal dysfunction, promoting more balanced political discourse and media coverage, and intelligently analyzing public issues along with the always-changing political situation. His books The Rise of the Right, The Making of the New Majority Party (1975) and How to Win Arguments (1981) should be of special interest to conservatives today.

Legacy

Rusher, who died at the age of 87 on April 16, 2011, remained very active on the right until the early years of this century. His legacy endures as a trailblazer and influential force who helped to shape and coach modern American conservatism, leaving behind a rich heritage of intellectually sophisticated activism that continues to inspire knowledgeable conservatives.

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  • The William A. Rusher Centennial Project

    The William A. Rusher Centennial Project aims to produce substantive intellectual media that, rooted in Mr. Rusher’s work, pushes today’s conservative movement to adopt a more coherent philosophy, a stronger coalition, and a more effective set of political and legal strategies. In short, the Project aims, as Mr. Rusher aimed, to get more votes for conservatism. And in so doing, it aims to inspire respect and enthusiasm the way Mr. Rusher did, while fighting effectively, confidently, and cheerfully for the conservative views he articulated. Those views, rooted in Locke and Burke, and founded in the Declaration of Independence, are not necessarily those views often misidentified today as “conservative.” The Project seeks to advance and to adapt Mr. Rusher’s views -- in line with his legacy -- so that they have broad resonance and appeal in the current political environment.

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