If any two people can be called indispensable in launching the conservative movement in American politics, they are William F. Buckley Jr. and Barry Goldwater. Buckley’s National Review was at the center of conservative political analysis from the mid-fifties onward. But the policy intellectuals knew that to actually change the way the country was run, they needed a presidential candidate, and the man they turned to was Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater. Goldwater was in many ways the perfect choice: self-reliant, unpretentious, unshakably honest and dashingly handsome, with a devoted following that grew throughout the fifties and early sixties. He possessed deep integrity and a sense of decency that made him a natural spokesman for conservative ideals. But his flaws were a product of his virtues. He wouldn’t’t bend his opinions to make himself more popular, he insisted on using his own inexperienced advisors to run his presidential campaign, and in the end he electrified a large portion of the electorate but lost the great majority. Flying High is Buckley’s partly fictional tribute to the man who was in many ways his alter ego in the conservative movement. It is the story of two men who looked as if they were on the losing side of political events, but were kept aloft by the conviction that in fact they were making history.
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