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Conservatives among the departed in 2020

Tevi Troy highlights some of the important conservative voices who died in the past year.

Conservatives got an inkling of how bad 2020 would be before the year even started. On Dec. 30, 2019, Gertrude Himmelfarb died. She was just the first of many conservative luminaries to die over the next 12 months — and it is worth remembering each one and what they contributed to conservatism and our country. As conservatism enters its next chapter, without a slew of great ideas or clarity regarding its future direction, learning lessons from these heroes of the past can potentially be a first step in discerning the way forward into the future.

Let’s start with Himmelfarb, an eminent historian and also wife of the late Irving Kristol. She wrote scholarly and compelling works about anti-Semitism and the Victorian era that always had contemporary relevance. Even those who disliked her politics could not question her scholarship. …

… Owen Harries was another conservative who died in 2020. Harries was at the helm of the National Interest when it published the most famous article in its history, and one of the most famous articles in the history of any magazine, Francis Fukuyama’s 1989 “The End of History?” I was a young think tank researcher in Washington at the time, and it is hard to overstate how widely read and debated the article was. …

… The writing world also lost Sir Roger Scruton, British conservative and author of more than 50 books. Scruton became a conservative in reaction to the 1968 student protesters, whom he aptly characterized as an “unruly mob of self-indulgent middle-class hooligans” putting forth “ludicrous Marxist gobbledygook.” …

… Knighted even earlier than Sir Roger was Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, who died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 72. Rabbi Sacks was the West’s leading defender of family, faith, and Western civilization itself. While for many years the chief rabbi of England, his wit and erudition gave his ideas wide purchase beyond just the confines of the Jewish world.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...