Will NFL Demand Respect for Old Glory?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

“America refuses to address the pervasive evil of white cops killing black men, and I will not stand during a national anthem that honors the flag of such a country!”

That is the message Colin Kaepernick sent by “taking a knee” during the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner” before San Francisco ’49s games in 2016. No NFL owner picked up his contract in 2017. But a few players began to copy Colin and to “take a knee.”

Friday night in Alabama, President Trump raged that any NFL player who disrespects Old Glory is a “son of a b—-h” who ought to be kicked off the field and fired by his team’s owner. And if the owners refuse to do their patriotic duty, the fans should take a walk on the NFL.

And so the stage was set for NFL Sunday.

Two hundred players, almost all black, knelt or sat during the national anthem. The Patriots’ Tom Brady stood in respect for the flag, while locking arms in solidarity with kneeling teammates.

The Pittsburgh Steelers coach kept his team in the locker room. Steeler Alejandro Villanueva, an ex-Army Ranger and combat vet, came out and stood erect and alone on the field.

For NFL players, coaches, commentators, owners and fans, it was an uncomfortable and sad day. And it is not going to get any better. Sundays with the NFL, as a day of family and friends, rest and respite from the name-calling nastiness of American politics, is over.

The culture war has come to the NFL. And Trump will be proven right. Having most players stand respectfully during the national anthem, while locking arms with other players sitting or kneeling in disrespect of the flag, is a practice the NFL cannot sustain.

The mega-millionaire and billionaire owners of NFL franchises are going to have to come down off the fence and take a stand.

The issue is not the First Amendment. It is not whether players have a right to air their views about what cops did to Michael Brown in Ferguson, or Eric Garner in Staten Island, or Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Players have a right to speak, march in protest, or even burn the flag.

The question NFL owners are going to have to answer soon with a definitive “yes” or “no” is this: Do players, before games, have a right, as a form of protest, to dishonor and disrespect the flag of the United States and the republic for which it stands? Or is that intolerable conduct that the NFL will punish?

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Trump is taking a beating from owners, players and press for being “divisive.” But he did not start this fight or divide the country over it.

Kaepernick did, and the players who emulated him, and the coaches and owners who refuse to declare whether insulting the flag is now permissible behavior in the NFL.

As Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Sunday, team owners and Commissioner Roger Goodell have strict rules for NFL games. No NASCAR-type ads on uniforms. Restrictions on end-zone dances. All shirttails tucked in. Certain behavior on the field can call forth 15-yard penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct, or even expulsion from the game.

Our Supreme Court has denied coaches of public high school teams the right to gather players for voluntary prayer before games. Why not an NFL rule requiring players to stand respectfully silent during the national anthem, and, if they refuse, suspend them from play for that day?

Or will the NFL permit indefinite disrespect for the flag of the United States for vastly privileged players whose salaries put them in the top 1 percent of Americans?

If watching players take a knee on the gridiron before every game, in insult to the flag, is what fans can expect every week, Trump again is right: The NFL fan base will dissipate.

Sunday’s game exposed a clash of loyalties in the hearts of NFL players. Do black players stand in solidarity with Kaepernick? Do white players stand beside black teammates, if that means standing with them as they disrespect the flag under which hundreds of thousands of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have died?

This conflict in loyalties among NFL players mirrors that of our country, as America divides and our society disintegrates over issues of morality, patriotism, race and culture.

We have been here before. At the Mexico City Olympics of 1968, gold and bronze medal-winning sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos each raised a black-gloved fist as a sign of solidarity with Black America, and not the nation they were sent to represent.

A month later, America elected Richard Nixon.

In terms of fame and fortune, no professions have proven more rewarding for young black American males than the NFL and the NBA.

Whether they soil their nest is, in the last analysis, up to them.

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Who Truly Imperils Our Free Society?

Who Truly Imperils Our Free Society?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

“The Barbarian cannot make … he can befog and destroy but … he cannot sustain; and of every Barbarian in the decline or peril of every civilization exactly that has been true.”

Hilaire Belloc’s depiction of the barbarian is recalled to mind as the statues honoring the history and heroes of the Republic and of the West continue to be vandalized and smashed.

A week ago, the statue of missionary and Catholic Saint Fr. Junipero Serra was beheaded at the Santa Barbara Mission he founded. A century-old Columbus statue in Central Park was defaced and spray-painted with: “Hate will not be tolerated.”

Baltimore’s monument to Francis Scott Key, who observed the bombardment of Fort McHenry on a British warship late in the War of 1812 and was inspired to write “The Star-Spangled Banner,” was covered in red paint. “Racist anthem” was written across it.

In Berkeley, home of the Free Speech Movement, the university last week had to spend $600,000 to protect an invited speaker of the college Republicans from being assaulted.

But St. Louis was where the real action was. Friday, a mob hurled rocks and bottles injuring 11 cops, leaving one with a broken jaw. They smashed windows at the mayor’s residence and marched miles to the Central West End to berate diners on patios of restaurants with the menacing chant: “Off the sidewalk. Into the street.”

Saturday, the mob invaded and shut down a suburban mall, and then smashed windows across a nightlife district.

The protesters rationale: rage at a not-guilty verdict in the murder trial of ex-cop Jason Stockley in the death of Anthony Lamar Smith — in 2011.

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Stockley’s police van had been struck by Smith’s car, who had been nabbed in an alleged drug deal and led police on an 80-mile-an-hour chase, at the end of which Stockley emptied his gun in Smith.

Yet even Attorney General Eric Holder declined to investigate.

On Sunday, Black Lives Matter showed up at the St. Louis’ police headquarters chanting, “Stop killing us!” But if the killing of black folks is a legitimate grievance, we need to ask: Who is killing them?

Last year, there were 4,300 victims of shootings in Chicago and 762 deaths. How many of those shootings were by cops?

How many of those shootings, mostly of blacks, were acts of “terrorism by White supremacists, White nationalists, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan,” all of whom our ever-heroic Congress demanded that President Trump, in a joint resolution after Charlottesville, denounce.

Nowhere in the resolution was there any mention of Antifa, the “anti-fascist” fighters on the other side of the Charlottesville brawl, where a protester was run down and killed by a Nazi sympathizer.

What is it in their DNA that causes Republicans reflexively to sign on to a one-sided Democratic denunciation of President Trump for the sin of suggesting there were two parties to the Charlottesville brawl?

And are neo-Nazis really a threat to the republic?

In 1963, this writer was at Dr. King’s March on Washington, which began on the Monument grounds where George Lincoln Rockwell’s Nazis were yelling slurs. On the site where Rockwell’s Nazis stood, there stands today the African-American Museum.

When my father was a 21-year-old Al Smith Democrat in D.C. in the Calvin Coolidge era, scores of thousands of anti-Catholic Klansmen strode up Pennsylvania Avenue, and the national Klan numbered in the millions.

But is the KKK of today a serious threat to civil rights?

Lately, St. Louis and East St. Louis have boasted the highest murder rates in America. Is that the doing of white supremacists?

This morning we read there have been so many smashed and stolen bicycles that Baltimore is canceling its Bike Share program.

Did David Duke and his Klan friends steal all those bikes?

Who are the ones shouting down speakers? Who violently disrupts political rallies, on campuses and off? Who engages in mob violence after almost every police shooting of a black suspect? As for interracial assaults, rapes and murders, according to FBI crime statistics, these are primarily the work of black criminals against white victims.

The Justice Department should report on hate crimes by white racists. But from the stats, anti-white racism is far more common and far more manifest in crimes of violence. Who reports that truth?

Are Christian supremacists murdering Muslims in Europe, or are Muslim supremacists committing acts of terrorism in Europe and conducting genocide against Christians in the Middle East?

The left has been marinated in an ideology where the enemy is always to the right. People blinded by ideology, unable to see the true enemies of their civilization, end up losing it, and their lives as well.

“We sit by and watch the Barbarian,” wrote Belloc, “We tolerate him … We are tickled by his irreverence; his comic inversion of our old certitudes and our fixed creed refreshes us; we laugh. But as we laugh we are watched by large and awful faces from beyond; and on those faces there are no smiles.”

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What Still Unites Us?

What Still Unites Us?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Decades ago, a debate over what kind of nation America is roiled the conservative movement.

Neocons claimed America was an “ideological nation” a “creedal nation,” dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal.”

Expropriating the biblical mandate, “Go forth and teach all nations!” they divinized democracy and made the conversion of mankind to the democratic faith their mission here on earth.

With his global crusade for democracy, George W. Bush bought into all this. Result: Ashes in our mouths and a series of foreign policy disasters, beginning with Afghanistan and Iraq.

Behind the Trumpian slogan “America First” lay a conviction that, with the Cold War over and the real ideological nation, the USSR, shattered into pieces along ethnic lines, it was time for America to come home.

Contra the neocons, traditionalists argued that, while America was uniquely great, the nation was united by faith, culture, language, history, heroes, holidays, mores, manners, customs and traditions. A common feature of Americans, black and white, was pride in belonging to a people that had achieved so much.

The insight attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville — “America is great because she is good, and if America ceases to be good, she will cease to be great” — was a belief shared by almost all.

What makes our future appear problematic is that what once united us now divides us. While Presidents Wilson and Truman declared us to be a “Christian nation,” Christianity has been purged from our public life and sheds believers every decade. Atheism and agnosticism are growing rapidly, especially among the young.

Traditional morality, grounded in Christianity, is being discarded. Half of all marriages end in divorce. Four-in-10 children are born out of wedlock. Unrestricted abortion and same-sex marriage — once regarded as marks of decadence and decline — are now seen as human rights and the hallmarks of social progress.

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Tens of millions of us do not speak English. Where most of our music used to be classic, popular, country and western, and jazz, much of it now contains rutting lyrics that used to be unprintable.

Where we used to have three national networks, we have three 24-hour cable news channels and a thousand websites that reinforce our clashing beliefs on morality, culture, politics and race.

Consider but a few events post-Charlottesville.

“Murderer” was painted on the San Fernando statue of Fr. Junipero Serra, the Franciscan who founded the missions that became San Diego, San Francisco, San Juan Capistrano and Santa Clara.

America’s oldest monument honoring Columbus, in Baltimore, was vandalized. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia called for Robert E. Lee’s statue to be removed from Capitol and replaced by — Pocahontas.

According to legend, this daughter of Chief Powhatan saved Captain John Smith from being beheaded by throwing herself across his neck. The Chief was a “person of interest” in the disappearance of the “Lost Colony” of Roanoke Island, among whose missing was Virginia Dare, the first European baby born in British America.

Why did Kaine not call for John Smith himself, leader of the Jamestown Colony that fought off Indian attacks, to be so honored?

In New Orleans, “Tear It Down” was spray-painted on a statue of Joan of Arc, a gift from France in 1972. Besides being a canonized saint in the Catholic Church and a legendary heroine of France, what did the Maid of Orleans do to deserve this?

Taken together, we are seeing the discoverers, explorers and missionaries of North America demonized as genocidal racists all. The Founding Fathers are either slave owners or sanctioners of slavery.

Our nation-builders either collaborated in or condoned the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans. Almost to the present, ours was a land where segregationists were honored leaders.

Bottom line for the left: Americans should be sickened and ashamed of the history that made us the world’s greatest nation. And we should acknowledge our ancestors’ guilt by tearing down any and all monuments and statues that memorialize them.

This rising segment of America, full of self-righteous rage, is determined to blacken the memory of those who have gone before us.

To another slice of America, much of the celebrated social and moral “progress” of recent decades induces a sense of nausea, summarized in the lament, “This isn’t the country we grew up in.”

Hillary Clinton famously described this segment of America as a “basket of deplorables … racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic … bigots,” and altogether “irredeemable.”

So, what still unites us? What holds us together into the indefinite future? What makes us one nation and one people? What do we offer mankind, as nations seem to recoil from what we are becoming, and are instead eager to build their futures on the basis of ethnonationalism and fundamentalist faith?

If advanced democracy has produced the disintegration of a nation that we see around us, what is the compelling case for it?

A sixth of the way through the 21st century, what is there to make us believe this will be the Second American Century?

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Is America Still a Nation?

Is America Still a Nation?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

In the first line of the Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776, Thomas Jefferson speaks of “one people.” The Constitution, agreed upon by the Founding Fathers in Philadelphia in 1789, begins, “We the people…”

And who were these “people”?

In Federalist No. 2, John Jay writes of them as “one united people … descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs…”

If such are the elements of nationhood and peoplehood, can we still speak of Americans as one nation and one people?

We no longer have the same ancestors. They are of every color and from every country. We do not speak one language, but rather English, Spanish and a host of others. We long ago ceased to profess the same religion. We are Evangelical Christians, mainstream Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, agnostics and atheists.

Federalist No. 2 celebrated our unity. Today’s elites proclaim that our diversity is our strength. But is this true or a tenet of trendy ideology?

After the attempted massacre of Republican Congressmen at that ball field in Alexandria, Fareed Zakaria wrote: “The political polarization that is ripping this country apart” is about “identity … gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation (and) social class.” He might have added — religion, morality, culture and history.

Zakaria seems to be tracing the disintegration of our society to that very diversity that its elites proclaim to be its greatest attribute: “If the core issues are about identity, culture and religion … then compromise seems immoral. American politics is becoming more like Middle Eastern politics, where there is no middle ground between being Sunni or Shiite.”

Among the issues on which we Americans are at war with one another — abortion, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, white cops, black crime, Confederate monuments, LGBT rights, affirmative action.

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Was the discovery of America and conquest of this continent from 1492 to the 20th century among the most glorious chapters in the history of man? Or was it a half-millennium marked by mankind’s most scarlet of sins: the genocide of native peoples, the enslavement of Africans, the annihilation of indigenous cultures, the spoliation of a virgin land?

Is America really “God’s Country”? Or was Barack Obama’s pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, justified when, after 9/11, he denounced calls of “God Bless America!” with the curse “God Damn America!”?

With its silence, the congregation seemed to assent.

In 1954, the Pledge of Allegiance many of us recited daily at the end of noon recess in the schoolyard was amended to read, “one nation, under God, indivisible.”

Are we still one nation under God? At the Democratic Convention in Charlotte to renominate Barack Obama, a motion to put “God” back into the platform was hooted and booed by half the assembly.

With this July 4 long weekend, many writers have bewailed the animus Americans exhibit toward one another and urged new efforts to reunite us. Yet, recall again those first words of Jefferson in 1776:

“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them…”

Are we approaching such a point? Could the Constitution, as currently interpreted, win the approval of two-thirds of our citizens and three-fourth of our states, if it were not already the supreme law of the land? How would a national referendum on the Constitution turn out, when many Americans are already seeking a new constitutional convention?

All of which invites the question: Are we still a nation? And what is a nation? French writer Ernest Renan gave us the answer in the 19th century:

“A nation is a soul, a spiritual principle. Two things … constitute this soul, this spiritual principle. One is the past, the other is the present. One is the possession in common of a rich legacy of memories; the other is present consent, the desire to live together, the desire to continue to invest in the heritage that we have jointly received.

“Of all cults, that of the ancestors is the most legitimate: our ancestors have made us what we are. A heroic past with great men and glory … is the social capital upon which the national idea rests. These are the essential conditions of being a people: having common glories in the past and a will to continue them in the present; having made great things together and wishing to make them again.”

Does this sound at all like us today?

Watching our Lilliputians tearing down statues and monuments, renaming buildings and streets, rewriting history books to replace heroes and historical truths with the doings of ciphers, are we disassembling the nation we once were?

“One loves in proportion to the sacrifices that one has committed and the troubles that one has suffered,” writes Renan, “One loves the house that one has built and that one passes on.”

Are we passing on the house we inherited — or observing its demolition?

Happy Fourth. And God bless the USA.

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Is Macron the EU’s Last Best Hope?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

For the French establishment, Sunday’s presidential election came close to a near-death experience. As the Duke of Wellington said of Waterloo, it was a “damn near-run thing.”

Neither candidate of the two major parties that have ruled France since Charles De Gaulle even made it into the runoff, an astonishing repudiation of France’s national elite.

Marine Le Pen of the National Front ran second with 21.5 percent of the vote. Emmanuel Macron of the new party En Marche! won 23.8 percent.

Macron is a heavy favorite on May 7. The Republicans’ Francois Fillon, who got 20 percent, and the Socialists’ Benoit Hamon, who got less than 7 percent, both have urged their supporters to save France by backing Macron.

Ominously for U.S. ties, 61 percent of French voters chose Le Pen, Fillon or radical Socialist Jean-Luc Melenchon. All favor looser ties to America and repairing relations with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Le Pen has a mountain to climb to win, but she is clearly the favorite of the president of Russia, and perhaps of the president of the United States. Last week, Donald Trump volunteered:

“She’s the strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France. … Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders, will do well in the election.”

As an indicator of historic trends in France, Le Pen seems likely to win twice the 18 percent her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, won in 2002, when he lost in the runoff to Jacques Chirac.

The campaign between now and May 7, however, could make the Trump-Clinton race look like an altarpiece of democratic decorum.

Not only are the differences between the candidates stark, Le Pen has every incentive to attack to solidify her base and lay down a predicate for the future failure of a Macron government.

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And Macron is vulnerable. He won because he is fresh, young, 39, and appealed to French youth as the anti-Le Pen. A personification of Robert Redford in “The Candidate.”

But he has no established party behind him to take over the government, and he is an ex-Rothschild banker in a populist environment where bankers are as welcome as hedge-fund managers at a Bernie Sanders rally.

He is a pro-EU, open-borders transnationalist who welcomes new immigrants and suggests that acts of Islamist terrorism may be the price France must pay for a multiethnic and multicultural society.

Macron was for a year economic minister to President Francois Hollande who has presided over a 10 percent unemployment rate and a growth rate that is among the most anemic in the entire European Union.

He is offering corporate tax cuts and a reduction in the size of a government that consumes 56 percent of GDP, and presents himself as the “president of patriots to face the threat of nationalists.”

His campaign is as much “us vs. them” as Le Pen’s.

And elite enthusiasm for Macron seems less rooted in any anticipation of future greatness than in the desperate hope he can save the French establishment from the dreaded prospect of Marine.

But if Macron is the present, who owns the future?

Across Europe, as in France, center-left and center-right parties that have been on the scene since World War II appear to be emptying out like dying churches. The enthusiasm and energy seem to be in the new parties of left and right, of secessionism and nationalism.

The problem for those who believe the populist movements of Europe have passed their apogee, with losses in Holland, Austria and, soon, France, that the fever has broken, is that the causes of the discontent that spawned these parties are growing stronger.

What are those causes?

A growing desire by peoples everywhere to reclaim their national sovereignty and identity, and remain who they are. And the threats to ethnic and national identity are not receding, but growing.

The tide of refugees from the Middle East and Africa has not abated. Weekly, we read of hundreds drowning in sunken boats that tried to reach Europe. Thousands make it. But the assimilation of Third World peoples in Europe is not proceeding. It seems to have halted.

Second-generation Muslims who have lived all their lives in Europe are turning up among the suicide bombers and terrorists.

Fifteen years ago, al-Qaida seemed confined to Afghanistan. Now it is all over the Middle East, as is ISIS, and calls for Islamists in Europe to murder Europeans inundate social media.

As the numbers of native-born Europeans begin to fall, with their anemic fertility rates, will the aging Europeans become more magnanimous toward destitute newcomers who do not speak the national language or assimilate into the national culture, but consume its benefits?

If a referendum were held across Europe today, asking whether the mass migrations from the former colonies of Africa and the Middle East have on balance made Europe a happier and better place to live in in recent decades, what would that secret ballot reveal?

Does Macron really represent the future of France, or is he perhaps one of the last men of yesterday?

Is Democracy in a Death Spiral?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

“You all start with the premise that democracy is some good. I don’t think it’s worth a damn. Churchill is right. The only thing to be said for democracy is that there is nothing else that’s any better. …

“People say, ‘If the Congress were more representative of the people it would be better.’ I say Congress is too damn representative. It’s just as stupid as the people are, just as uneducated, just as dumb, just as selfish.”

This dismissal of democracy, cited by historian H. W. Brands in “The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War,” is attributed to that great populist Secretary of State Dean Acheson.

Few would air such views today, as democracy has been divinized.

Indeed, for allegedly hacking the Clinton campaign and attacking “our democracy,” Vladimir Putin has been condemned to the ninth circle of hell. Dick Cheney and John McCain have equated Moscow’s mucking around in our sacred democratic rituals to an “act of war.”

Yet democracy seems everywhere to be losing its luster.

Among its idealized features is the New England town meeting. There, citizens argued, debated, decided questions of common concern.

Town hall meetings today recall a time when folks came out to mock miscreants locked in stocks in the village square. Congressmen returning to their districts in Holy Week were shouted down as a spectator sport. A Trump rally in Berkeley was busted up by a mob. The university there has now canceled an appearance by Ann Coulter.

Charles Murray, whose books challenge conventional wisdom about the equality of civilizations, and Heather Mac Donald, who has documented the case that hostility to cops is rooted in statistical ignorance, have both had their speeches violently disrupted on elite campuses.

In Washington, our two-party system is in gridlock. Comity and collegiality are vanishing. Across Europe, centrist parties shrink as splinter parties arise and “illiberal democracies” take power.

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Russia and China, which have embraced autocratic capitalism, have attracted admirers and emulators by the seeming success of their strongman rule.

President Trump, seeing the way the world is going, welcomes to the White House Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, whose army dumped over the elected government and jailed thousands.

Following a disputed referendum that granted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan near-dictatorial powers, Trump phoned his congratulations to the Turkish autocrat. It was Erdogan who described democracy as a bus you get off when it reaches your stop.

Why is liberal democracy, once hailed as the future of mankind, in a deepening bear market? First, Acheson was not all wrong.

When George W. Bush declared that the peoples of the Middle East should decide their future in democratic elections, Lebanon chose Hezbollah, the Palestinians chose Hamas, the Egyptians the Muslim Brotherhood. The first two are U.S.-designated terrorist groups, as members of Congress wish to designate the third. Not an auspicious beginning for Arab democracy.

In Sunday’s election in France, a Communist-backed admirer of Hugo Chavez, Jean-Luc Melenchon, and the National Front’s Marine Le Pen could emerge as the finalists on May 7.

Democracy is increasingly seen as a means to an end, not an end in itself. If democracy doesn’t deliver, dispense with it.

Democracy’s reputation also suffers from the corruption and incompetence of some of its celebrated champions.

The South African regime of Jacob Zuma, of Nelson Mandela’s ANC, faces a clamor for his resignation. Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff was impeached in August. South Korean President Park Geun-hye has been removed and jailed for corruption. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez was elected president four times.

In Federalist No. 2, John Jay called us a “band of brethren” and “one united people” who shared the same ancestors, language, religion, principles, manners, customs.

Seventy years later, the brethren went to war with one another, though they seem to have had more in common in 1861 than we do today.

Forty percent of Americans now trace their ancestral roots to Latin America, Asia and Africa. The Christian component of the nation shrinks, as the numbers of Muslims, Hindu, atheists, agnostics grow. We have two major languages now. Scores of other languages are taught in schools.

Not only do we disagree on God, gays and guns, but on politics and ideology, morality and faith, right and wrong. One-half of America sees the other as “a basket of deplorables. … racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic … bigots.”

How, outside an external attack that unites us, like 9/11, do we find unity among people who dislike each other so much and regard each other’s ideas and ideals as hateful and repellent?

Democracy requires common ground on which all can stand, but that ground is sinking beneath our feet, and democracy may be going down the sinkhole with it.

Where liberals see as an ever-more splendid diversity of colors, creeds, ethnicities, ideologies, beliefs and lifestyles, the Right sees the disintegration of a country, a nation, a people, and its replacement with a Tower of Babel.

Visions in conflict that democracy cannot reconcile.

When Pat Buchanan Tried To Make America Great Again

When Pat Buchanan Tried To Make America Great Again

If you’re wondering how Donald Trump happened, all you have to do is let Pat Buchanan, the founding father of Republican insurrection, beguile you with a history no one else can tell.

It’s impossible to say exactly when the rehabilitation of Patrick Buchanan began, partly because his banishment from polite company was never total. MSNBC rather publicly fired him in 2012—over the protests of Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski—after the publication of Suicide of a Superpower, the latest, though by no means the shrillest, in the series of duck-and-cover, they’re-coming-for-us screeds he’s been writing since 1998. With chapter titles like “The Death of Christian America,” “The End of White America,” and “The White Party,” it sounded the alarm of demographic apocalypse, offering pungent observations such as: “U. S.-born Hispanics are far more likely to smoke, drink, abuse drugs, and become obese than foreign-born Hispanics.”

And yet two years later, there he was again on Morning Joe, serenaded with the Welcome Back, Kotter theme song. On camera, Buchanan plugged his new book, The Greatest Comeback, which tells how he helped Nixon get elected president, a three-year siege that raised a repeat loser from the dead. Buchanan is a vivid storyteller, and his account draws amply on his personal archive of briefing papers, letters, and notes. The book also illuminates the Nixon years’ atmosphere of cultural embattlement, a political mood that looks more relevant than ever in the Age of Donald Trump.

So do Buchanan’s three long-shot attempts, in 1992, 1996, and 2000, to become president himself. He never came close to winning, but each time he nagged at something, rubbed a nerve in just enough voters of a particular kind­—what he called “peasants” and we call the white working class—to send ripples of panic through the Republican party. The echoes of Buchananism in Trump’s campaign were a pet theme during the election and its aftermath. But if anything, the debt has been understated. Put most simply, Buchanan begat Trumpism as his former ally William F. Buckley Jr. begat Reaganism. The also-ran of the Republican hard Right is the intellectual godfather of our current revolution.

It’s true that Trump found his own way, as early as 1987, to the America First platform he ran on almost thirty years later. But it was Buchanan who sounded, or brayed, the message we all now know by heart: anti-immigrant, anti-Europe, anti-Asia, anti-free-trade, anti more or less anything that inches America away from inches America away from the splendors of the 1950s.

Nixon Presidential Library

It’s a curious fact of Buchanan’s political history that his crusades are remembered as other men’s defeats—George H. W. Bush’s in 1992 and Bob Dole’s in 1996. Both secured the Republican nomination, but only after Buchanan beat them up and exposed them as out-of-touch frontmen for the GOP elite. In ’92, amid a slumping economy, Buchanan railed against Japan’s “predatory trade policies” and an agreement with Mexico later called NAFTA. The United States, he suggested, should think about quitting the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. These heresies got him 37.5 percent of the vote in New Hampshire against the glass-jawed incumbent Bush. Four years later, declaring himself the tribune of “a conservativism that gives voice to the voiceless,” Buchanan won the state outright, beating Dole by a percentage point. Dole recovered in later primaries, but, like Bush, he staggered on rubbery legs to the finish line, where Bill Clinton was waiting.

Trump also belongs to the company of the Buchanan-scarred. The confrontation happened in 2000, when Buchanan, having become a pariah within the GOP, made a quixotic last stand on the Reform party ticket. Trump, even more quixotically, sought the Reform nomination, too, swaggering in with a book to promote and hot-air talk of the $100 million he would spend to get on the ticket and then to win “the whole megillah.” Before Buchanan smacked him down, Trump got in some preemptive sore-loser licks. “Look, he’s a Hitler lover,” he said. “I guess he’s an anti-Semite. He doesn’t like the blacks, he doesn’t like the gays.” For once affecting a statesman’s high detachment, Buchanan said only that the Reform party and the presidency weren’t for sale.

He remembers it all today, as he remembers much else in his half-century of national politics, as a quasi-joke. “Somebody said, ‘Pat, he called you a Nazi, a Hitlerite.’ I said, ‘With Trump, you have to realize, these are terms of endearment.’ ” Sitting in the living room of his big Georgian house in McLean, Virginia, just after the inauguration, Buchanan lets out a soft roar, his eyes disappearing into his still-meaty face. He turned seventy-eight in November, and the thousands of hours on the road, the layers of TV pancake, have wrinkled his pug features, while his hair has faded toward apricot and is thinning in back. But his laughter is alive and happy. And why not? He did in 2000 what sixteen Republicans couldn’t do in 2016, despite the best efforts of William Kristol, the halfhearted pushback of the Koch brothers, and the whole machinery of “Conservatism, Inc.” Not only that: The platform from which Buchanan once exuberantly ranted is now GOP doctrine and is fast becoming the law—or the multiplying illegalities—of the land.

Jeremy Liebman

Buchanan grew up in a giant family in northwest Washington, D. C., one of nine kids. He and three brothers, born in successive years, formed a posse of brawlers and street fighters, “the scourge of Washington’s Catholic community,” according to Maureen Dowd, who grew up hearing tales of “the latest Buchanan hooliganism.” Buchanan has written about it, too, with undisguised nostalgia, in his autobiography, Right from the Beginning. He is not a man for second thoughts, whether about the sucker punches he threw and absorbed or the cold-war religion he learned in parochial schools and at home. His father was a prosperous accountant who burned incense to the homegrown anti-communist martyrs Joe McCarthy and General Douglas MacArthur, and to the distant savior Generalissimo Franco. In Right from the Beginning, Buchanan fondly recalls how he and his schoolmates at Blessed Sacrament flung snowballs at the “Boston Blackie,” a bus that carried black cleaning women out to the leafy white suburbs, in 1950. Almost seventy years later, the man who disparaged Barack Obama’s celebrated speech about the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and the politics of race as”the same old con, the same old shakedown” may be no one’s ideal of a prophet or wise man, but he has quite possibly become, to quote David Brooks, “the most influential public intellectual in America today.”

Give Buchanan points for consistency, at least, and for self-effacement, conditioned by years as a backroom White House adjutant. “I heard from Trump during the primaries,” he says. “He called about columns of mine that he liked. But I did not hear from him in the fall election. And I’ve not talked to him since. I was delighted when he got in.”

“How can such a fanatic be so likable?”

In fact, Buchanan has been plugging Trump for months in the column he writes on Mondays and Thursdays for his website. Trump has his share of defenders—including a handful of intellectuals—but it’s safe to say that only Buchanan would defend the president’s directive about transgender access to bathrooms by citing Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical.

“How can such a fanatic be so likable?” Garry Wills, a Buchanan watcher since the 1968 campaign, has wondered. Wills, no pushover, isn’t alone. Michael Kinsley has Buchananitis. George Packer has it, too. “Pat Buchanan is a nativist, an isolationist, and an armed-to-the-teeth culture warrior,” he wrote in 2008, after interviewing Buchanan in McLean. “He’s also a very nice man and a wonderful raconteur.”

There is no deep mystery to Buchanan’s talent for disarming writers. He’s one of them—a lover of good prose and poetry, an observer with peeled eyes and keen ears, a pack-rat archivist of his own career whose voice and mind hum with bold ideas and clever arguments. And he’s one of the premier phrasemakers in modern American politics. Connoisseurs have their favorite campaign lines. Mine both come from 1996: The first was his mockery of Dole and the GOP regulars as “the bland leading the bland”; the second came after Buchanan got trounced in eight primaries on a single Tuesday and shouted, with a cackle, “We are going to fight until hell freezes over, and then we’re going to fight on the ice.”

The other thing writers like, and envy, is where Buchanan’s verbal gifts have taken him: into the thick of the political scrum. He has stumped through dozens of primaries, captivated a national political convention (in Houston, in 1992), and spent hours giving advice to great men who actually read what he wrote and listened to what he said.

Jeremy Liebman

Buchanan met his wife, Shelley, when they worked together on Nixon’s staff. Their pillared white house in McLean, next door to the CIA compound, is a homey museum of Buchanan’s career, with artifacts on open display: vintage replicas of pistols owned by his military heroes; a glass-fronted case with a pitchfork, souvenir of the 1996 campaign; and, in an alcove, photographs of Buchanan huddling in the White House with the three presidents he served—Nixon, Ford, and Reagan.

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It was in this living room that right-wing zealots gathered in January 1987 to anoint Buchanan their new leader, God’s honest heir to Goldwater and Reagan. “Let the bloodbath begin!” one of them shouted. Buchanan loves the sanguine talk, but his own idiom is quite often refined, even bookish. Only a man besotted with words, who has a feel for historical irony, could begin his testimony before the Senate Watergate Committee by saying, “You’re looking at the Buckminster Fuller of dirty tricks.” It was a bravura performance, and left Nixon giddy with the belief that Buchanan had dealt a “death blow” to the committee. He hadn’t, of course. But his quick-jab sparring with inquisitors like Senator Sam Ervin made Buchanan a star, and gave even the Nixon haters a villain they could enjoy, if not root for.

Buchanan revisits much of this history in his new book, Nixon’s White House Wars, his thirteenth and perhaps best timed. The wars he describes, in opulent detail, were waged against the media, much like the one we’re seeing now. Barely thirty, Buchanan was Nixon’s Stephen Bannon, the in-house ideologue and commando-in-chief who goaded Nixon into taking on “big media”— especially the TV networks, The New York Times, and The Washington Post—and then wrote the scripts for the attacks.

Buchanan likes journalists as much as they like him. He used to be one, and was good at it. A scholarship student at the Columbia School of Journalism, he was tutored by moonlighting Times editors and then got on the fast track at the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, a bastion of Midwest conservatism. His long postmortem on the trouncing of his early hero, Barry Goldwater, in the 1964 election was tough-minded and just. “The senator was vague, his analyses too simple, his proposals shallow,” Buchanan wrote, at age twenty-five. But, he added, the revolution was just beginning, and was bigger than the man who had led it. “The new conservatism antedated Goldwater, made him a national figure to rival Presidents, and will post-date him,” Buchanan predicted. “There is no sign the conservative movement will wither and die. It has lost the battle, not the war.”

The two had a history going back to the fifties.

Fourteen months later, Buchanan quit the Globe-Democrat and joined Nixon’s staff, with a big salary hike, from $9,000 to $13,500 (a little more than $100,000 today). The two had a history going back to the fifties, when Nixon was the vice-president and Buchanan was earning pocket money at the Burning Tree golf club. Assigned once to caddie for Nixon, Buchanan followed him into the bushes and unzipped next to him, against club rules. If Nixon minded, he didn’t say so.

Joining Nixon’s staff, in 1965, Buchanan knew exactly what his job was: to mend fences with the hardcore Right, including the ideologues at National Review. For them, Nixon had been the errand boy of Dwight Eisenhower, the moderate they despised for governing from the center and declining to roll back the New Deal.

Out in the country it looked different. Eisenhower was the hero of World War II who then got us out of Korea and kept us out of Armageddon with the Soviets. Nixon was his junior partner, the respectful non-com who had waited his turn.

Buchanan thrilled to something else—Nixon the hard-edged political fighter and GOP loyalist. Together they toured the country in advance of the crucial 1966 midterms, tirelessly helping candidates for the House and Senate, building up goodwill. Those surprised at Buchanan’s own adroit presidential campaigns, done on a shoestring, forgot his apprenticeship with Nixon, the pioneer technician of modern retail politics.

Nixon won in 1968, but just barely. He got only 43 percent of the vote and failed to carry either the House or the Senate, no thanks to George Wallace, the Alabama fire-breather, who won 13 percent and five states in the Electoral College—all defecting Democrats, but now Republicans in the making, if the party would fine-tune its message. The country was splitting at the seams over Vietnam and civil rights. The game, or war, was about “the sixties”: the protests, the culture clash, the polarization.

In 1968, the political experts were all looking in the wrong place, just as they would do in 2016. “The young, the antiwar groups, the mass demonstrations,” Buchanan remembers. But Nixon’s men picked up a different signal: The center was being ignored and was there for the grabbing. “You could carve off the conservative wing of the Democratic party, populist and conservative—Northern Catholics and Southern Protestants we called them then—and bring them into the Republican party of Goldwater and Nixon.” A few liberal Republicans would flee, but the GOP would “wind up with the larger half of the country.” Out of this came Nixon’s 1972 landslide, on a scale unthinkable today: 60 percent of the vote, forty-nine states.

To hear Buchanan sift through this, with his easy command of electoral numbers and voting trends, is to feel how thin and hollow our politics has become. “Northern Catholics” and “Southern Protestants” still exist in America, but you wouldn’t know it. They have been crowded into an undifferentiated blur—white and Christian, with no shadings. But Nixon’s men grew up in a denser geography of ethnic difference, full of prickles and thorns. They used terms like “lower-middle-class Irish Catholic”: Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s description of Buchanan, in a letter sent when both were working for Nixon. The two were ideological foes but, when it came to elites, of one suspicious mind.

Later accounts would cast all this as a politics of bitter polarization, the marshaling of resentments and grievances. And indeed it was, to a considerable extent—”the whole secret of politics—knowing who hates who,” as Kevin Phillips, a lawyer and the master strategist of Nixon’s new majority, summarized it at the time. Phillips was a prodigy who at fifteen had begun working out the intricacies of shifting voter allegiances going back to the nineteenth century. Even younger than Buchanan, he had gone on to work for Nixon’s 1968 campaign and in his administration. His 1969 book, The Emerging Republican Majority, elevated voter analysis into a rarefied art. “American voting patterns are a kaleidoscope of sociology, history, geography and economics,” Phillips wrote. “The threads are very tangled and complex, but they can be pulled apart.” Phillips unknotted those threads in formulations like this: “The sharpest Democratic losses of the 1960–68 period came among the Mormons and Southern-leaning traditional Democrats of the Interior Plateau.”

Phillips and Buchanan both became famous thanks to Garry Wills’s Nixon Agonistes, the great chronicle of the 1968 presidential campaign. Nixon’s “fresh batch of intellectuals” included Phillips, with his color-coded charts, “a dense little mosaic of colors and figures that seemed to divide the country not into states or counties, but almost by street”; and Buchanan, in his black overcoat, “with the collar wrapped up around his lumpy raw face,” his “briefing file on all current affairs,” and the fluent press statements he wrote for Nixon while reading up on the 1960 election in Theodore White’s The Making of the President.

The portrait—which Buchanan at one time could summon from memory—was a reward from Wills, National Review‘s most gifted writer. Buchanan had gotten him face-time with Nixon after Buckley, the magazine’s editor, and William Rusher, its publisher, came around on the candidate. “Rusher calls me,” Buchanan remembers, “and says, ‘We’re doing a big National Review takeout on Nixon. Garry Wills is gonna do it. And you gotta bring him in to see all the Nixon people.’ I said, ‘Bill, I can’t do it. We’re about to head into New Hampshire. I can’t give this guy all that time just for an article in National Review.‘ He implored and begged me, and Wills came in and talked to everybody. Then we got him time on the plane with Nixon.” The interview, one of the most memorable in Nixon Agonistes, was first published not in National Review but in this magazine.

For Wills, “Nixon’s main problem, I think, was his nose,” Buchanan recalls. He’s serious. Nixon’s ski-jump nose, beloved by caricaturists, was a staple of the period’s cornball humor. Even Nixon worked up good-sport one-liners. (“Bob Hope and I would make a great ad for Sun Valley.”) Wills, crammed beside him in a DC-3, under the dim overhead spotlight, was transfixed—not by the nose’s fabled length but by “its distressing width, accentuated by the depth of the ravine running down its center, and by its general fuzziness . . . the nose swings far out; then, underneath, it does not rejoin his face in a straight line, but curves far up again, leaving a large but partially screened space between nose and lip,” etc. On it went, Cyrano de Bergerac by way of the New Journalism.

Nixon was appalled. For two years he’d been trying to shed the loser’s image that haunted him after two election flops (for president in 1960 and governor of California in 1962), and here he was getting “kicked around” again—for his nose!—by a virtual nobody. Nixon never got over it, Buchanan says, still amazed and shaking with hilarity. “All during the campaign: ‘Remember, you brought him in, Buchanan.’ Near his death, he reminded me, ‘You were responsible!’ ” A wild hoot of laughter. “He would not let me forget it!”

Brooks Kraft

It was Buchanan’s task to find a metaphor for Nixon’s “new majority,” which was useful shorthand for politicos talking shop but not for a public that needed poetry. A phrase had come to Buchanan during the heat of the 1968 campaign. With Nixon safely nominated in Miami, Buchanan and others went to the Democratic convention in Chicago. They stayed at the Hilton, on the nineteenth floor. “We had a suite,” Buchanan says, “and were invitin’ the journalists up. Norman Mailer walks in with José Torres, the boxer.”

Mailer, who would describe the conventions in Miami and the Siege of Chicago, another of the period’s great political books, was exactly Buchanan’s type: a writer with a muscular prose style who also used his fists. The two hit it off easily. “We’re drinkin’ and talkin’. We hear this commotion outside. We went to the window.” On the streets below, the police were advancing on some ten thousand demonstrators in Grant Park. “The cops were in a phalanx, all marching like they were in the inaugural parade, but not as many. And they came right down Balbo, across Michigan, right in front of our hotel. And these guys”—the police—”poured into that park and they were whalin’ on these people left and right.”

A federal commission would later conclude that the cops in Chicago had rioted. But Buchanan was on their side, and he was confident the new majority was, too. He sent a memo to Nixon urging him to visit Chicago and “stand with the great silent majority against the demonstrators.”

There it was: “silent majority,” a variation on the Depression-era “forgotten man,” with an important difference. The forgotten man, who would return in Trump’s inaugural address, was downtrodden, haunted, and hurting, a step away from the poorhouse. The silent majority were his more fortunate but equally anxious offspring, holding on to what they had in America’s affluent postwar society even as civil-rights protesters, antiwar radicals, left-wing professors, and Ivy League journalists all conspired to take it away or send it up in flames.

The phrase had gone into one of Nixon’s key speeches, given in November 1969 at the peak of the antiwar protests and carried by all three major networks. “And so tonight,” Nixon said, after outlining a strategy for getting out of the war by turning it over to the South Vietnamese, “to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans, I ask for your support.”

But the national audience didn’t hear Nixon alone. They also heard teams of analysts brought into the studio to dissect the speech. The memory still agitates Buchanan. “Sixty-seven percent of Americans, as I recall, looked to the major networks as the primary source of international and national news. Sixty-seven percent! And here are the guys describing what Nixon’s doing, and they’re all on the other side. And they’re all slantin’ it. We got a sense that they’re standing on our windpipe!”

“We have a right to fight against that power using our First Amendment rights, just as they do.”

The protocol was for someone on staff to call network executives and ask for better treatment. Nixon’s chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, instructed Buchanan to do it. But he had another idea. The administration should go public, meet the enemy—”the collective power of the national press,” as he now puts it—head-on. “What we had to do was say: They are as political and ideological as we are. They’ve got all this power, and there’s a tiny handful of them, and they didn’t get it democratically the way we did. And we have a right to fight against that power using our First Amendment rights, just as they do.”

Nixon agreed, and out of this came the most important speech in the modern history of the American media wars. Written by Buchanan, it was delivered ten days after Nixon’s “silent majority” address by Vice-President Spiro Agnew, himself a culture warrior itching to poke back at the liberal press, which had been ridiculing him since he was nominated. Unlike Nixon, who dismembered every draft, Agnew merely tinkered with them.

The result was a full-scale assault on the media—on its practices and habits, the “instant analysis and querulous criticism” that came between the president and the public. Most remarkable were Buchanan’s speculations on the network executives themselves, “a tiny, enclosed fraternity of privileged men elected by no one and enjoying a monopoly sanctioned and licensed by government.” What did Americans know about this coterie? “Little other than that they reflect an urbane and assured presence seemingly well-informed on every important matter.” They lived and worked in New York or Washington, D. C., Buchanan had Agnew say, where they basked “in their own provincialism, their own parochialism.”

The impact was tidal, especially after Buchanan expanded the attack, in a later Agnew speech, to newspapers. The Times, for one, would later hire Buchanan’s fellow speechwriter, William Safire, to be a columnist, and publish Buchanan on its new op-ed page. But the wars continued. The real trouble came, as always, not from enemies in the press but from disgruntled administration insiders—leakers. One such, Daniel Ellsberg, handed over seven thousand pages dealing with Vietnam, the Pentagon Papers.

A gut-fighter and loyalist, he had no moral qualms.

Nixon was incensed by the leak and wanted to retaliate with countersurveillance and dirty tricks. Buchanan was the first staff member approached to lead this campaign. A gut-fighter and loyalist, he had no moral qualms and sympathized with the ambition to punish the administration’s enemies. “But in the last analysis,” he explained in a memo turning down the offer, “the permanent discrediting of all these people, while good for the country, would not, it seems to me, be particularly helpful to the President, politically.” A better idea, he thought, was a “major public attack” on the Brookings Institution.

It was the wisest decision of Buchanan’s career. The man who took the job instead, Egil “Bud” Krogh, appears in a group photo hanging in Buchanan’s house—youngish men looking prematurely old in dark suits, foot soldiers caught in the wrong fight. Watergate felons. To Buchanan, they are comrades who took bullets for the cause. As I study the faces and signatures—Krogh, Dwight Chapin, Ed Morgan—Buchanan ticks off the jail time each received. His tone is that of a Normandy survivor back among the white crosses of the fallen.

Nixon got millions of votes in his long career, but he attracted few believers. Buchanan was one of those few, and he still is. His anger, all directed at the other side, is as fresh today as it was in 1974. “If I were a special assistant to the president and had taken these documents and given them to The New York Times, I would have been fired in disgrace and charged with a crime. But if I get secret documents as a journalist and I publish them, I’m a hero?”

Buchanan’s slogan, “America First—and Second, and Third,” coined in 1990, signaled that his was a politics of protest. So did another notorious eruption, his fiery oration at the Houston convention in 1992. “There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America,” he declared. “It is a cultural war.” At the time, this sounded like the bitter cry of intolerance. And it was, with its denunciations of “homosexual rights” and “radical feminism.” But when Buchanan said that the election was “about who we are” and “what we believe,” he was delivering a raw message, a shout from a distant shore, that even now many seem unable to hear. Our delicate moral antennae are attuned to the faintest dog whistle, but they filter out the deeper rumbles through which democracy makes its urgent claims.

Coarseness, never the meanest political vice, matters much less than we think. It is the lesson we learned in 2016. Buchanan has been imparting it for many years. Today, some remember the controversies over his denunciations of Israel and the Jewish lobby in the early 1990s. He was judged guilty of anti-Semitism by two of his heroes and allies, Buckley and Irving Kristol. But fewer remember what prompted the dispute. Buchanan was one of a small group of conservatives who opposed the first Iraq invasion—the event that set the GOP on the course that ended with the election of Donald Trump.

The real battle, as usual, was over history. Liberals said the cold war had been about the march toward a globalized civil society. But for Buchanan and others like him, it had been a war against godless communism. Their heroes weren’t diplomats and Davos attendees. They were brutalists, like McCarthy, MacArthur, and Franco. Wills was right: Buchanan is a fanatic, though he has his own term for it. “We are conservatives of the heart,” he says of paleo-conservative America Firsters like himself. “This is one reason the New World Order, the whole idea, is gonna come down. It doesn’t engage the heart. Who’s gonna put on a bayonet and charge for some Brussels bureaucrat?”

Well, many of us might, if the alternative is militant ethno-nationalism. But just asking the question got Buchanan exiled from his own party. So did his criticism of foreign aid, of billions spent on defense for “rich nations that refuse to defend themselves,” his scoffing at the “altruism” of the “guilt-and-pity crowd.” All this while others on the Right, exhuming the world-conquering optimism of an earlier time, invoked a “new universalism,” a “super-sovereign” banding of powers. (A confession: In 1999, The Wall Street Journal‘s op-ed page commissioned me to read him out of the GOP.)

Pat Buchanan and Ronald Reagan

Buchanan restated his argument, courageously, in The American Conservative, the magazine he helped found in 2002, when it was clear that George W. Bush was preparing the country for a second Iraq invasion. Buchanan wanted no part of it. A military-history buff, he cited dark precedents: “the Ottoman, Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and German empires in World War I, the Japanese in World War II, the French and the British the morning after.” All were undone by hubris. The U. S. was next, and it wouldn’t end in Baghdad. “The neoconservatives who pine for a ‘World War IV,’ ” he warned more than a decade ago, would be itching soon for “short sharp wars on Syria and Iran.”

Buchanan had been expanding his case in books with grabby doomsday titles, each a renewed cry to take America back: The Great Betrayal, State of Emergency, The Death of the West, Day of Reckoning. Some verged on learned crackpottery. “Here is a difference between Patrick Buchanan and David Irving,” the historian John Lukacs wrote of Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War, the revisionist history that Buchanan published in the last year of George W. Bush’s presidency. Irving, the notorious Holocaust denier, “employs falsehoods; Buchanan employs half-truths. But, as Thomas Aquinas once put it, ‘a half-truth is more dangerous than a lie.’ ” The review ran in The American Conservative.

By this time, Buchanan had dropped off the grid of respectability. Running in 1996, he was compared to Huey Long and Mussolini, and the crowds at his events were likened to the goose-stepping mobs at Nuremberg rallies, presaging the epithets pinned on Trump’s legions of “deplorables.”

An exception, in 1992, was The Washington Post‘s Henry Allen, who traipsed through New Hampshire with Buchanan and found not simply race hatred but a warm nostalgia for an older time—the diner in Concord, for instance, that had a sign reading welcome back to the 50s along with 45 records and a cover torn from The Saturday Evening Post. Buchanan, Allen wrote, was “paying attention” to these voters. He talked to them, and they weighed what he had to say.

After Buchanan lost, as he almost always did, badly in most states, it all went away—the panic, the hilarity, the casual references to Nazism and fascism. He was sent back to the fringes, where he belonged, a harmless crank. At one point he joined a freemasonry of the outcast, dining once a month at a Hunan restaurant in Alexandria with Samuel Francis and Joseph Sobran, both columnists who’d been evicted from the respectable Right—Francis from The Washington Times for espousing white nationalism, Sobran from National Review for toe-in-the-water anti-Semitism, or “counter-Semitism,” as he called it. Both are now being resurrected as forerunners of the alt-right.

It took sixteen years to come true.

Buchanan’s last hurrah in electoral politics, his 2000 campaign on the Reform ticket, resulted in a ludicrous 450,000 votes in the general election, 2.4 million fewer than Ralph Nader got. But like the Confederate generals he reveres, he was defiant in retreat. “When the chickens come home to roost,” he predicted to The New York Times, “this whole coalition will be there for somebody. They’re going to think, ‘What ever happened to that guy back in 2000?’ There’s no doubt these issues can win.”

It took sixteen years to come true, the same interval that separated Barry Goldwater’s annihilation in 1964 from Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980. Even in the information age, movements need time. But Buchanan now has had the satisfaction of hearing his argument restated by a president, who has said, “I’m not representing the globe, I’m representing your country.”

In this delicious moment, Buchanan has found his sweet spot. For the first time since Nixon’s reelection, events have caught up with him. He asks Shelley to bring in a copy of The Financial Times. The headline says, trump puts protectionism at heart of u. s. economic policy. Buchanan chuckles. “A small victory.”

There are more these days. They arrive in the customized packages of news reports he awakens to each morning. He goes online to read Antiwar.com but is otherwise loyal to the print journalism whose influence he helped weaken. The five papers he reads daily include the Times and the Post, as well as the FT. “I wasn’t all that aware of Breitbart, to be honest,” he says. Also, “I don’t tweet.”

Revolutions scramble the present and cloud the future. But they throw new beams of clarity on the past. And the past is much on Buchanan’s mind, as his place in history grows larger and better defined. He’s been gathering up his voluminous papers. “Shelley holds on to all my correspondence. I’ve got boxes of them all over the place. Three years of papers on the Nixon comeback from January 1966 to January 1969 that no one else has copies of—and eight years of papers from the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan presidencies. Also clippings, papers, speeches, memos from my three presidential runs, and thirty-five years of columns, op-eds, speech notes.” He hasn’t chosen an archive yet. There’s still too much to do: proofs to correct for the new Nixon book, a promotional tour to complete.

All of a sudden, what Pat Buchanan thinks matters to just about everyone, NPR and Politico as well as Fox News. He has a good deal to say, but then he always did. The book that got him fired from MSNBC, Suicide of a Superpower, isn’t just a litany of provocations. It is a warning that the country is changing. “A rebellion is under way in America,” Buchanan wrote in 2011, “a radicalization of the working and middle class . . . a populist rage against a reigning establishment. But what explains the failure of the establishment to understand its countrymen?” Today, many others are asking this, too.

The final joke is that Buchanan knows as well as anyone that the good old times aren’t coming back. “I get my UN statistics, and the latest ones came in on these big wall charts,” he says. The writing, so to speak, is on the wall. Item: “Africa has 1.1 billion people. Will have 2 billion in 2050, and 4 billion in 2100.” Item: “There’s not a single country in Europe, save maybe Iceland, that will have a birthrate to enable its native born to survive and endure as the majority in those countries at the end of the century.” And America? “Texas, California, Hawaii, New Mexico,” he notes, are already majority nonwhite.

Just look at the seat of the Republic. “Trump got 4 percent of the vote in my hometown—4 percent! A Bolshevik would have done better than that when I was growing up!” Another burst of laughter. “I couldn’t believe it. California’s a state Richard Nixon won six times. The first time he went for the Senate, he set a state record. 1950. He won it six times, lost it for governor once. Reagan won it in four straight landslides.” Today, there is talk that California will secede from Trump’s America, from Buchanan’s. “Some of us,” he says, “are for it.”

And what of Trump’s early days in office?

“I’m very hopeful some of the things can be done, but I’m pessimistic about whether we can turn it around,” he says. For one thing, Trump’s reluctance to admit error is worrisome. “White Houses get in trouble when they don’t tell the truth about blunders and mistakes,” Buchanan wrote in an email. And while it’s paramount for presidents to stay on good terms with Congress—”a loyal majority is indispensable to get things done, and to cover your back”—Buchanan warned that Trump’s health-care bill would leave “millions of working-class folks who placed their trust in him out in the cold.” The silent majority knows what betrayal looks like, and if it happens again, Pat Buchanan will be there, ready to go one more round.

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