“The great unsung hero of the conservative movement” —MARK LEVIN
If Not Us, Who? is both the story of an architect of the modern conservative movement and a colorful journey through a half century of high-level politics.
Best known as the longtime publisher of National Review, William Rusher (1923–2011) was more than just a crucial figure in the history of the Right’s leading magazine. He was a political intellectual, tactician, and strategist who helped shape the historic rise of conservatism.
To write If Not Us, Who?, David B. Frisk pored over Rusher’s voluminous papers at the Library of Congress and interviewed dozens of insiders, including National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr., in addition to Rusher himself. The result is a gripping biography, authorized yet independent, that shines new light on Rusher’s significance as an observer and an activist while bringing to life more than a generation’s worth of political hopes, fears, and controversies.
Frisk vividly captures the joys and struggles at National Review, including Rusher’s complex relationship with the legendary Buckley. Here we see the powerful blend of wit, erudition, dedication, shrewdness, and earnestness that made Rusher an influential figure at NR and an indispensable link between conservatism’s leading theorists and its political practitioners.
“If not us, who? If not now, when?”—a maxim often attributed to Ronald Reagan—could have been Rusher’s motto. In everything he did—publishing National Review, recruiting and advising political candidates, organizing cadres of young conservatives, taking on liberal advocates in a popular television debate program, writing a syndicated column—his objective was to build a movement. And he constantly exhorted his colleagues to step up as leaders of that movement. His tireless efforts proved essential to conservatism’s ascendancy, from the pivotal Goldwater campaign through the Reagan era.
Largely unexamined until now, Rusher’s career opens a new window onto the history of the conservative movement, its successes and failures. This comprehensive biography reintroduces readers to a remarkable man of thought and action.
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“Frisk’s deeply researched and well-written biography fills the gap. . . . Anyone interested in understanding [conservatism’s] rise should read Frisk’s highly informative study.”
“Frisk gives a vivid account of the qualities that caused so many people to seek Rusher’s counsel and listen carefully to what he had to say. . . .
“[Frisk] has done a superb job of chronicling the life and times of William A. Rusher. . . . A masterly job.”
“As David B. Frisk shows us in this finely tuned and richly detailed biography, Rusher was one of the most respected figures in the American conservative movement. . . . David Frisk’s fine book . . . [is] the best that has been written, and long needed.”
Well-researched and enlightening . . . David Frisk captures the man with a keen eye. . . . Frisk’s biography gives us a full portrait not only of a good man at work, but also of an era that saw one of the most abrupt changes in governing philosophy in American history. . . . Invaluable reading for any student of the rise of American conservatism.”
“Bill Rusher was the great unsung hero of the conservative movement. This fascinating, meticulously researched biography sheds new light not only on a remarkable man but also on the rise of conservatism in America.”
“If conservatism sent its departed warriors to Valhalla, Bill Rusher would be at the head table drinking a flagon of mead as we speak. It is something of a scandal that Rusher has not had a fully realized biography of his own. David Frisk has remedied that with this exhaustive but thoroughly engaging examination of Rusher’s monumental life and legacy.”
“There were in fact two ‘Bills’ at National Review—founding editor Bill Buckley and almost-founding publisher Bill Rusher. David Frisk’s illuminating biography brings alive the ‘other’ Bill—a formidable political strategist and debater who was as important as his better-known colleague to the American conservative movement. A must-read.”
“In this carefully hued portrait of one of the most important leaders of modern conservatism, Frisk captures the intelligence and wit of William Rusher. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of conservatism and for people looking for what it means to be a consistent conservative.”
“If not William Rusher, who? Rusher was the most consequential political strategist of the postwar conservative movement; a keen partisan; a lover of good wine, good food, and good poetry; and a great guy. David Frisk’s biography keeps his memory green.”
“As the right arm of William F. Buckley and in a hundred other roles, Bill Rusher fought tirelessly for the values that defined the modern conservative movement. Every American trying to recapture that commitment ought to read David Frisk’s wonderful new biography of a man to whom the country owes much.”
“William A. Rusher is one of the premier examples of the rare combination of thought and action, and David Frisk has performed an important service to history and the conservative movement in telling Rusher’s story so thoroughly and insightfully.”
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