A flurry of anniversaries this month is a reminder of the importance of conservative magazines and journals in American intellectual life and in our political history.
In honor of the seventieth anniversary of Commentary, the magazine has published a collection of seventy contributors writing on “What will be the condition of the Jewish community fifty years from now?” Among the many highlights: Dennis Prager painting a very pessimistic picture of the future of Jewish life; Elliott Abrams noting that by 2065 the role of the Holocaust “as a cement of the American Jewish community will have dried up”; and Naomi Schaefer Riley discussing interfaith marriage. Other contributors include Bill Kristol, Peter Berkowitz, Ruth Wisse, Garry Kasparov, Alan Dershowitz, Bret Stephens, Joe Lieberman, and Eric Cohen, and editor John Podhoretz rounds out the collection with his own fine closing piece. Although Commentary has changed a great deal since its founding, it continues to fulfill its original mission of providing readers with “informed discussion on the basic issues of our time especially as they bear on the position and future of Jews in our country and in the world scene.”
National Review marks its sixtieth anniversary with more than forty contributions from writers discussing the ideas, arguments, and stories they cherish — from Rush Limbaugh explaining his part in puncturing the fiction of unbiased news media, to Jonah Goldberg discussing conservative/libertarian fusionism, to Deirdre McCloskey on “the great enrichment,” to Richard Brookhiser on the continuing relevance of the Founders. There are many other little treasures tucked here and there in the issue, including notes from longtime subscribers, appreciations by leading conservatives for the books that influenced them, and a timeline that shows how William F. Buckley, Jr. and NR created and then shaped modern American conservatism. Especially noteworthy is Yuval Levin’s piece, which inverts Buckley’s famous line from the inaugural NR editorial, noting that conservatives who wish to modernize government will face the obstacle of “progressives who stand athwart our path yelling ‘History!’”
City Journal, too, has an anniversary issue — its twenty-fifth — with big pieces by many of its most familiar names, including Heather Mac Donald, Victor Davis Hanson, Kay Hymowitz, Steven Malanga, and Sol Stern. Former editor Myron Magnet offers a lovely essay called “What City Journal Wrought” looking back at the ways the publication’s stable of clear-eyed analysts contributed to the renaissance of New York City, not to mention the improvement of urban policy across the country.
The late, great neoconservative policy journal The Public Interest also has an anniversary this season: it was fifty years ago, in fall of 1965, that the PI first appeared. To mark the occasion, I’ve written an essay for National Affairs revisiting that inaugural issue. Readers familiar only with the PI’s later reputation will be surprised by some of what appeared in its earliest pages.
For those of us committed to understanding and protecting the best of American democratic capitalism, free representative government, and our Western cultural heritage, our journals and magazines have been an indispensable source of vitality. (I admit here to bias, as I am not just a lifelong admirer of these magazines, but also lucky enough to be the editor of one myself.)
There is, to be sure, room for improvement. For one thing, there are gaps in our publishing and intellectual work. (This is one reason to be cheered by the launch today of Providence, a brand-new conservative Christian foreign-policy journal published by the Institute on Religion and Democracy.) And there are also some kinds of writing — certain varieties of criticism and journalism — that we conservatives badly underemphasize, to our great detriment. But overall, the extraordinary intellectual infrastructure that we have built is strong and growing. Here’s to a future filled with many more readers, and many new magazines for them to read.
Adam Keiper is editor of The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology and Society.