Mind of the New Majority

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By Michael Brendan Dougherty – The American Conservative Magazine

Pat Buchanan is more than a conservative—he’s Nixon meets Spengler.

Patrick J. Buchanan stood beside a window in Chicago’s Conrad Hilton hotel during the 1968 Democratic convention and looked over the panorama of dissent raging below. At about two in the morning, the phone rang—it was Nixon. “Buchanan, what is happening there?”

“I said, ‘Listen’,” Buchanan recalls, then pantomimes how he stuck the phone out the hotel window. “All you could hear was ‘F-you Daley! F-you Daley!’”

“That’s what’s going on,” he told Nixon, and hung up. He smiled taking it in.

Later the police, tired of the verbal abuse being hurled at them, charged into the park and at the protestors, looking for a brawl. “The cops shouldn’t have done it,” says Buchanan, remembering the savage way they beat the demonstrators. “But the country saw the pictures of cops racing into the park. And the country was with the cops.”

The continental plates of America’s politics were grinding into new positions beneath Buchanan’s feet. That shift tilted ethnic whites and eventually Southern evangelicals into the Republican coalition, awarding the party five of the next six presidential elections, including two 49-state victories. In a phrase crafted by Buchanan, Nixon called it “the great silent majority.” Buchanan prefers to call it the New Majority.

In the generalizations of political history, Buchanan—as a wordsmith and veteran of two Republican White Houses—is lumped with the broad postwar conservative movement. Since the Cold War ended and that movement degenerated into a set of interlocking cliques, he has been identified more finely as a “paleoconservative.” The man who wrote incendiary editorials on Goldwater’s behalf for the St. Louis Globe Democrat, who attends Latin Mass regularly, and who injected the term “culture war” into the heart of political discourse is certainly a conservative. But that label is incomplete.

In media, he is the pioneer pundit. Sean Hannity and scores of others from all political backgrounds learned the trade from him. His three-hour radio show with Tom Braden evolved into a television program and later spawned “Crossfire” and “The McLaughlin Group.” But few other columnists or talking heads match his depth. If a cable news program is on in the background and you hear the words “Agincourt” or “the snows of Canossa,” it is Buchanan, inevitably, speaking them.

But he is not just a media figure, either. In that time of tumult before the 1968 election, National Review publisher Bill Rusher asked Pat, “Are you Nixon’s ambassador to the conservatives, or are you our ambassador to Nixon?….

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