As Barry Goldwater’s ill-fated 1964 campaign’s slogan had it: In your heart, you know he’s right.
Last Friday, Buchanan announced he is retiring the political column he has written since the days of Barry Goldwater. It is the final end of a public political career that has spanned a half century of decline in the country Buchanan loved so much and fought so hard to save. And if Buchanan can’t boast that he actually did save the country, he at least has the satisfaction of seeing ideas that once made him an outcast from his own party rise to become the dominant worldview within it. Without Buchanan, there would be no Trump. For that matter, without Buchanan, there would be no Revolver.
Of all the people who might be deemed a forerunner of Donald Trump and his political revolution, Pat Buchanan has by far the most worthy claim.
Consider this article from 2015, published just as Trump’s presidential campaign was taking off:
Mr. Trump revels in controversy. But as he assails illegal immigration as an “invasion” and refers to Mexicans en masse as “Jose,” his critics are accusing him of taking controversy a step too far. They say Mr. Trump is speaking in code, using xenophobic images like those or anti-Semitic references to excite bigots without alienating mainstream voters.
[Trump frequently offers] direct and sometimes harsh mockery of foreigners, using his derision to cultivate support for his immigration and trade policies. “I’ll build that security fence, and we’ll close it, and we’ll say, ‘Listen Jose, you’re not coming in this time!’ ” he shouted to applause from an almost entirely white audience at a rally in Waterloo, Iowa three weeks ago.
Okay, you probably already guessed the twist: That’s not Trump at all, but a write-up of Buchanan’s presidential campaign twenty-six years ago. All that’s missing is the promise to make Mexico pay for the fence. Buchanan didn’t just share Trump’s views, but his talent for colorful language that drove the regime berserk; a quarter-century before “Crooked Hillary,” China’s Deng Xiaoping was a “chain-smoking Communist dwarf.”
Donald Trump won the presidency by appealing to the Silent Majority, but Buchanan is the one who literally coined the term working as a speechwriter for Richard Nixon. And throughout his career, Buchanan tried his best to speak for that quiet mass of beleaguered American humanity.
Put up a fence, send illegals home, America-first trade policy, an end to foreign interventionism, no more wokeness: It was all there, 20 years ahead of Trump. But tragically, the message went unheeded. Buchanan was the intellectual son of accountant, not a billionaire real estate tycoon with three decades’ experience as a TV star. Buchanan had the ideas, but Trump had the money, the star power, the meme magic. Buchanan’s 1992 campaign was the last credible primary challenge to an incumbent president, but nothing more. His 1996 campaign might have worked against a more divided field, but against an establishment firmly united around Bob Dole, Buchanan won just four states and 20% of the primary vote.
But Buchanan never deviated or retooled his message just for the sake of popularity. Instead, he willingly endured more than a decade as the Republican Party’s Cassandra.
In the end, all of Buchanan’s warnings came true: Middle America became a hollowed-out, deindustrialized area wracked with blight and drug overdoses. America’s foreign adventures wasted trillions and achieved nothing. The tidal wave of foreign immigration resulted not in rainbow-like harmony but endless struggles between different identity groups. And all of this culminated in crushing defeat for the Bush-era Republican party that embraced all of these trends. It would only return to the White House in 2016 behind a candidate who finally did what Buchanan had begged the party to do a quarter-century before: Actually reach out to middle America and seek the support of America’s Silent Majority.
“My friends, these people are our people,” Buchanan said in 1992. “They don’t read Adam Smith or Edmund Burke, but they come from the same schoolyards and the same playgrounds and towns as we come from. They share our beliefs and convictions, our hopes and our dreams. They are the conservatives of the heart. They are our people. And we need to reconnect with them. We need to let them know we know how bad they’re hurting. They don’t expect miracles of us, but they need to know we care.”
Sadly, it took twenty-four years for the GOP to field a candidate who did.
Yep—dragged kicking and screaming every step of the way, and to this day they struggle desperately to smite him, and make damned sure he stays smote for the duration. Just as any debased, corrupted system or organization always will do, to any nonconformist, visionary outlaw who dares stand athwart them and their nefarious ambitions.