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In 1965, New York City was in disarray. The streets were suffocated with traffic. Racial tensions threatened to rip apart the fragile social fabric. And crime was out of control. William F. Buckley, Jr., the renegade conservative candidate for mayor of New York that year, had a plan to take back the city. From the Wall Street Journal’s review of The Unmaking of a Mayor:
Buckley’s recommendations for New York’s regeneration were substantive and radical. Crime was his biggest concern. Soft-hearted judges and political pressure kept putting wrongdoers back on the street, and police found themselves cast as racist oppressors. This demoralized the cops and empowered the thugs. You couldn’t walk from Harlem to the Village ‘without standing a good chance of losing your wallet, your maidenhead, or your life,’ Buckley wrote. Lots more officers on the beat were needed, ‘enjoined to lust after the apprehension of criminals even as politicians lust after the acquisition of votes…
National Review publisher, and “creature of New York,” Jack Fowler further describes the state of the city in the latest Encounter Books podcast—listen:
Buckley didn’t win, as we know, but his predictions that a John Lindsay mayorship would worsen the state of affairs in the city were dead on:
By the time Lindsay’s two terms were over, the mayor, who turned Democrat in 1971, had presided over a massive explosion in crime (from 836 murders in 1965 to 2,040 murders in 1973), the swelling of welfare rolls to more than one million recipients, and a 90% increase in city spending, setting the stage for Gotham’s near default in the mid-1970s.
And Buckley’s ideas would prove central to New York City’s renaissance under Giuliani and Bloomberg, “with crime beaten to historic lows and welfare rolls cut by two-thirds.”
So, where would the New York City be today without Bill Buckley? For more, read the Wall Street Journal’s full review of The Unmaking of a Mayor.
And learn about Buckley’s singular campaign in The Unmaking of a Mayor.