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The Unmaking of a Mayor

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Publication Details

Paperback / 488 pages
ISBN: 9781594038471
PUBLISHED: 10/13/2015

The Unmaking of a Mayor

John V. Lindsay was elected mayor of New York City in 1965. But that year’s mayoral campaign will forever be known as the Buckley campaign. “As a candidate,” Joseph Alsop conceded, “Buckley was cleverer and livelier than either of his rivals.” And Murray Kempton concluded that “The process which coarsens every other man who enters it has only refined Mr. Buckley.”

The Unmaking of a Mayor is a time capsule of the political atmosphere of America in the spring of 1965, diagnosing the multitude of ills that plagued New York and other major cities: crime, narcotics, transportation, racial bias, mismanagement, taxes, and the problems of housing, police, and education. Buckley’s nimble dissection of these issues constitutes an excellent primer of conservative thought.

A good pathologist, Buckley shows that the diseases afflicting New York City in 1965 were by no means of a unique strain, and compared them with issues that beset the country at large. Buckley offers a prescient vision of the Republican Party and America’s two-party system that will be of particular interest to today’s conservatives. The Unmaking of a Mayor ends with a wistful glance at what might have been in 1965—and what might yet be.

About the Author

William F. Buckley, Jr., was the author of fifty previous works of fiction and nonfiction. The founder and former editor-in-chief of National Review and former host of Firing Line, he was one of the intellectual leaders of the right since the 1950s. His syndicated column, “On the Right,” began in 1962 and appeared in newspapers around the country. He served as a CIA agent in the early 1950s, helped found the Young Americans for Freedom in 1960, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H.W. Bush in 1991.

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The birds and beasts were there—reporters, several dozen of them; television cameras from all the networks; newscasters from all the radio stations.

The meeting was at the Overseas Press Club. Neal Freeman, a young man (twenty-four) of enormous talent and savvy who had worked at National Review during the preceding two years, was in charge of the arrangements. It had been decided that the Conservative Party would not officially participate in the press conference because to do so would be to anticipate the Conservative Party’s ratification of my candidacy, which would have been improper. So that it was, formally speaking, just myself and Freeman.

A half-hour before the thing began, looking over one of the hundred copies of my prepared announcement, I suddenly noticed that by error the stenographer had reproduced an early rather than my finished draft. Everyone in the office of National Review was transformed, during the ensuing minutes, into typists, stencil-cutters, mimeographers, Xeroxers, as we rushed to put together at least a half-dozen copies to give out to those at the press conference with the most pressing deadlines. The few minutes that were to be given over to a hasty conference to attempt to anticipate the most embarrassing questions the press might ask (“What exactly did Senator Goldwater say to you when you spoke to him?” “Why didn’t you oppose John Lindsay in the Republican primary?” “Who will compose the balance of your ticket?”) were spent typing copy, in some cases hunt-and-peck, stapling, collating.

It was a terribly hot day. The large room was without air-conditioning. Twice I began, twice the television crews stopped me as they made adjustments. Finally, “Okay, go ahead.”

I began again:

I propose to run for Mayor of New York.

I am a Republican. And I intend, for so long as I find it possible to do so—which is into the visible future—to remain a Republican. I seek the honorable designation of the Conservative Party, because the Republican designation is not, in New York, available nowadays to anyone in the mainstream of Republican opinion. As witness the behavior of the Republican Party’s candidate, Mr. John Lindsay, who, having got hold of the Republican Party, now disdains the association; and spends his days, instead, stressing his acceptability to the leftwardmost party in New York, the Liberal Party.

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