Originally posted February 6, 2023.
You recently read the news that Pat Buchanan has decided to retire from writing his long-running syndicated column. Buchanan’s tremendous impact on American politics was on full display during the Trump administration, during which time Buchanan’s focus on America first principles was taken up by Trump and his supporters with enthusiasm. Revolver News explains Buchanan’s inspiration to Trump and his team, writing:
There may be no more iconic moment in Donald Trump’s entire presidential campaign than his February 2016 debate showdown with Jeb Bush. The debate, held in Greenville, South Carolina just days before a crucial primary, was rigged against Trump from the start. While polls showed Trump with a big lead, the actual crowd in Greenville was full of movement conservative die-hards nostalgic for George W. Bush. Jeb Bush thought he could use the memory of his brother as a secret weapon to turn the tide, win the state, and save his flailing campaign. It did not go as planned:
For eight years, Republicans had danced awkwardly around the Iraq War, so obviously a national calamity, out of dogmatic loyalty to their last president and to the idea of interventionism itself.
But Donald Trump broke the taboo. He called Iraq what it was, an idiotic near-criminal disaster, and didn’t back down even as a crowd of the people he was trying to win over booed and heckled.
Seven years on, the battle has been almost won. In 2020, Republicans celebrated Donald Trump as the first president in forty years not to start a war on his watch. They praised him for negotiating an end to Afghanistan, and avoiding new quagmires in Syria or Iran. On Ukraine, it is Republicans rather than Democrats who question the wisdom of spending hundreds of billions of dollars with no strategic endgame on a war that never needed to happen and serves no U.S. interests.
By making the Republican Party turn against interventionism and forever wars, Donald Trump changed the country for the better. And when he did so, he was channeling one very specific man: Pat Buchanan.
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.
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