Patrick J. Buchanan had not even formally announced his candidacy for the White House last November than a platoon of the Beltway right suddenly fell out of ranks to denounce him and his challenge to George Bush. Divisive, polarizing, protectionist, nativist, xenophobic, anti-Zionist, anti- Semitic, ultra-nationalist, racist were the predictable sobriquets that buzzed from their muzzles.
Abe Rosenthal immediately compared Mr. Buchanan to David Duke and urged the organisation of the same kind of national boycott against him and his supporters that had been launched so effectively against Louisiana. Neoconservative Charles Krauthammer joined the chorus soon after in a column shuddering with fear over what he called Mr. Buchanan’s “ravings” of the last couple of years.
Why was this so? Why, with George Bush sinking in the polls and perhaps unlikely to keep the White House next year, were the Beltway right and its friends on the left so frightened of a challenge to the mollescent ooze seeping from the executive mansion that may wash the White House out of Republican hands for the first time in 12 years? Not only has Mr. Buchanan never worn an arm band or a bed sheet, but he happens to be perhaps the most popular political columnist in the United States, the publisher of one of the country’s fastest growing newsletters, and a ubiquitous star on nationally broadcast talk shows. The normal response from conservatives, it would seem, would be to welcome Mr. Buchanan’s campaign as at least a useful splint to keep Mr. Bush connected to the right wing of his party.
There is a simple reason for the shrill denunciations Mr. Buchanan received from his supposed allies: he is too popular.
It is not that his success excites personal jealousy among less talented and less articulate conservative spokesmen, but rather that what he offers is something that few if any of the others have. Unlike almost every other major figure or organization of the American right today, Mr. Buchanan has not achieved his eminence as a result of tax-exempt foundations, a government job, grants from HUD and the education department, or handouts from fat cats. Mr. Buchanan has been successful—indeed, become wealthy and famous—doing precisely what professional conservatives always talk about but don’t always practice. He has offered a product—his insights and viewpoints on public affairs—and a national market for that product finds it irresistible.
This is not simply a tribute to his skills as a salesman but points to something else. Pat Buchanan is a real person. He really believes certain things and really doesn’t believe certain others, and he really says what he believes and doesn’t believe. He pulls no punches, and he doesn’t have to pull them precisely because he is independent of the conservative hive that flourishes in Washington and New York.
By contrast, what the members of the hive say and do is largely determined by what is expedient for the organizations they represent. Their articles, columns, magazines, and books are carefully plotted media events, engineered by public relations firms and reinforced by the other hiveites. Every year or so, they crank out more lightweight tomes on economics, education, culture, or foreign policy, contrive to have their friends review them and boom them and sit back and enjoy the limelight their contributions to scholarship emit. But within another year, their efforts have proved perishable, and you’re lucky if you can locate them on the remaindered shelves of secondhand bookstores.
After a steady stream of Big Mac conservatism, anyone who serves a real hamburger is not going to be welcome, and that is exactly what Mr. Buchanan offers: not the monosodium glutamate of neoconservatism and the soft right but the muscular protein for which Americans outside the Beltway are starving.
If Mr. Buchanan is smart—and we think he’s very smart—he’ll ignore the chirpings of the Beltway hive and keep on serving up what Americans and America need. The rabbit food of global democracy, Big Government conservatism, unlimited free trade and immigration, and perpetual war for perpetual nonpeace are what’s on the menu of the soft right, but no one’s going to order it, much less swallow it.
The issues Mr. Buchanan should and probably will address have to do not with the cerebrations of think tanks and the preferences of institutional cash cows, but with the real concerns, interests, and beliefs of real Americans: the economic destruction of the American middle class by the leakage of jobs, plants, and technologies abroad; the cultural deracination of American civilization and education by literally millions of illegal and undocumented aliens and their allies in powerful political lobbies, bureaucracies, and universities; the grotesque injustice of affirmative action, quotas, set-asides and all the other phony therapies by which a ravenous and irresponsible underclass clamors for power and privilege; the corruption of our public life by the entrenched congressional oligarchy and its incestuous sibling in the executive branch bureaucracy; the frivolous frittering away of national sovereignty and national power in foreign aid and American troops for thankless “allies” and dubious neutrals.
Conservatives in the post-Reagan era don’t even recognize most of these crises and threats as real problems, let alone the mortal wounds to our national identity and interests that they are, and when someone emerges who does see them and wants to heal them, his admonitions are denounced as “ravings” by the very claque that purports to want to “conserve” America and its heritage.
Labels like “conservatism” and “liberalism,” “left” and “right,” have no meaning anymore because they have been hijacked by frauds who use them only to deceive and dissimulate instead of to communicate and lead. Away with these baubles and those who play with them. Let real Americans lead the real America.