Buchanan - We'd Rather Be Right

By Kopkind, Andrew | The Nation, January 6, 1992 | Go to article overview

Buchanan - We'd Rather Be Right


Kopkind, Andrew, The Nation


BUCHANAN - WE'D RATHER BE RIGHT

Pat Buchanan struck at noon. Right on the button for the cable news shows and precisely at the moment when workers in the Capitol offices here took to the streets for lunch, the feisty fascist of Sunday morning TV chat strode up to the microphones to announce his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. Of course the crowd was mostly media, plus staff and a ringer or two from other political camps. A Yale student working for Paul Tsongas had forgotten to take off his candidate's button, but he was safe in the throng. An ACT UP demonstrator crying "Fight Back, Fight AIDS" dramatically interrupted the scripted event and was carried, literally screaming and kicking, out the back door of the state office building where Buchanan was speaking. The national press corps, much too accustomed to New Hampshire in December, to unruly demonstrations everywhere and especially to Pat Buchanan, laughed derisively. It may be the last laugh of the season.

Buchanan's entrance into a particularly flat and tedious campaign has provided a certain volume and texture. He presents a serious though probably not life-threatening challenge to President Bush, but more than that, he injects what the commentators like to characterize as an "unabashedly" ideological element into the proceedings. (That's the word du jour. Tom Brokaw called Tom Harkin an "unabashed" liberal; Tsongas, we know, is unabashedly pro-business. Is Jerry Brown now unabashedly unbashful, Douglas Wilder unabashedly black, Bob Kerrey unabashedly wounded in war and Bill Clinton unabashedly well groomed?) As an ideologue, he is able to lift the campaign from an exercise in poll reading and force the Democrats as well as Bush to think real thoughts, and perhaps even say what they mean. That can't be all bad.

In his noontime announcement on December 10, Buchanan hit all his ideological buttons. None of this value-neutral "the cold war is over" stuff you heard from the Democrats in their mid-December debate, and even from Bush as he desperately tried to prop up Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Gotterdammerung. "By the grace of God," Buchanan intoned, "America won the cold war." That happy victory, he went on, has allowed nationalisms to flourish from Croatia (a favorite of the right wing) to Ukraine to the Americas. Buchanan is in favor of self-determination for everyone with enough cloth for a flag and a trumpet to blow a national anthem. He supports Palestinian nationalism, which is something of a first for serious presidential candidates of either party from time immemorial, and he has written in favor of the dissolution of Canada into several parts, with Quebec going its bloody-minded Gallic way and the English-speaking provinces joining the United States for an Anglo-Celtic bulwark against the darker peoples. (That was before several Anglophone provinces went social democratic.) Just the other week he said on MacNeil/Lehrer that although he wasn't particularly in favor of wholesale immigration, he'd prefer a bunch of assimilable Englishmen to "a million Zulus" taking up residence in Virginia. Surely he was speaking metaphorically. For Buchanan, the Zulus start in Montreal.

"When we say we will put America first," Buchanan explained, "we mean also that our Judeo-Christian values are going to be preserved, and our Western heritage is going to be handed down to future generations, not dumped onto some landfill called multiculturalism."

Buchanan's voice was uncommonly low, his eyes lowered to the printed page of his speech, but his words were as charged as ever. "Phase out foreign aid," he demanded. Liquidate "the predatory traders of Europe or Asia." Rid Washington of "registered agents of foreign powers hired to look out for everybody and everything - except the national interest of the United States." Cleanse "our popular culture of books, movies, films" - the ones, that is, that abjure the J-C values.

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