Yes. Such a time existed. It was National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr.'s lifetime project to change the know-nothing reaction of American conservatism into something intelligent, discerning, evolving and human.
He was always in a race with the Birchers and, later, the theocrats. And some of you may say, what difference did it make? I'd rather have smart conservatives, ones that embrace the intellectual. Buckley died in 2008, his dream in tatters, virtually excommunicated from today's conservative movement.
For Black Friday, I give you Whittaker Chambers' devastating 1957 takedown of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. It's worth reading to the end.