Tea Party and the Right

Why Does Bigot Pat Buchanan Still Wield Influence?

Buchanan's bigoted ideas may not be adopted outright, but they find their way into the mouths of others that do have a following.

"Although [Pat] Buchanan doesn't have the influence he did in the 1990s when he commanded a following inside the Republican Party, he remains an influential, even cutting edge figure among a significant sector of extreme paleoconservatives," says Leonard Zeskind, president of the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights.

For a number of years, Patrick J. Buchanan was considered "The Man" in the conservative movement; he took a back seat to no one. He ran for the GOP's presidential nomination and attracted a large following; he hosted and appeared on several cable news shows, including being one of the original co-hosts of CNN's "Crossfire"; his books have been bestsellers; and, perhaps most famously of all, Buchanan's "Culture War Speech" at the 1992 Republican Party convention both enthralled his followers and chilled a good part of the rest of the nation.

In a recent column about the events in Norway, after a perfunctory condemnation of the bombing and murder spree unleashed by Anders Behring Breivik, Buchanan was classic Buchanan suggesting that, "Breivik may be right."

Over the years, as Jamison Foser recently pointed out at Media Matters for America, Buchanan has expressed an, "almost unbelievable dislike of Nelson Mandela and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr."; took up the cause of John Demjanuk, who was"convicted earlier this year of complicity in the murder of tens of thousands of Jews while serving at a Nazi death camp"; defended the white supremacists beliefs of Nixon's Supreme Court nominee, Harold Carswell; and,"praised Klansman David Duke for his staunch opposition to ‘discrimination against white folks.'"

In a June column posted at CNSNews.com, titled "Say Goodbye to Los Angeles"Buchanan commented on the June soccer match at Pasadena's storied Rose Bowl that saw the Mexican team beat the U.S. He wrote that fans rooting for Mexico should consider returning there and they should"let someone take his place who wants to become an American."

Buchanan pointed out that "By 2050, according to Census figures, thanks to illegals crossing over and legalized mass immigration, the number of Hispanics in the U.S.A. will rise from today's 50 million to 135 million." Never one to miss an opportunity to be excessively dramatic/hyperbolic, Buchanan concluded: "Say goodbye to Los Angeles. Say goodbye to California."

When Pat Buchanan spoke, many may have turned their heads, but his core audience, anti-immigrant, white nationalists perked up and listened, and later echoed his remarks.

Despite the reams of "culture war" commentary, including anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and anti-gay rage, for some inexplicable reason, the Washington Beltway crowd has always considered him"a good old boy."

"A cutting edge figure among a significant sector of extreme paleoconservatives"

"Although Buchanan doesn't have the influence he did in the 1990s when he commanded a following inside the Republican Party, he remains an influential, even cutting edge figure among a significant sector of extreme paleoconservatives,"Leonard Zeskind, president of the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights told me in a telephone interview.

"His ideas may not be adopted outright, but they find their way into the mouths of others, that do have a following," Zeskind, author of the invaluable Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream, added. "Think of him as a cutting edge figure, with a following on television news and an influence on others who have larger followings," said Zeskind.

Buchanan hearts Breivik

Buchanan's column about Breivik may in part be an attempt to grasp renewed relevance. The piece,"A fire bell in the night for Norway,"which was posted at WorldNetDaily, maintained that Breivik is an, " evil ... though deluded man of some intelligence, who in his 1,500-page manifesto reveals a knowledge reveals a knowledge of the history, culture and politics of Europe." Breivik, perhaps unknown to Buchanan, also revealed an ability to purloin a chunk of the manifesto from other published sources and claim them as his own.

"He admits to his ‘atrocious' but ‘necessary' crimes, done, he says, to bring attention to his ideas and advance his cause: a Crusader's war between the real Europe and the ‘cultural Marxists' and Muslims they invited in to alter the ethnic character and swamp the culture of the Old Continent," Buchanan maintained.

Now that the "atrocious" deed has been done, Buchanan is, as many other conservatives have been doing, attempting to disassociate Breivik from the conservative movement in the United States and Europe: "His writings are now being mined for references to U.S. conservative critics of multiculturalism and open borders. Purpose: Demonize the American right, just as the berserker's attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson was used to smear Sarah Palin and Timothy McVeigh's Oklahoma City bombing was used to savage Rush Limbaugh and conservative critics of Big Government."

But, Buchanan wrote, the left will not get away with "guilt by association," a methodology Buchanan charged, "has been used by the left since it sought to tie the assassination of JFK by a Marxist from the Fair Play for Cuba Committee to the political conservatism of the city of Dallas."

While Buchanan admitted that there are, "violent actors or neo-Nazis on the European right who bear watching," he declared that "native-born and homegrown terrorism is not the macro-threat to the continent."

According to Buchanan,"Europe's left will encounter difficulty in equating criticism of multiculturalism with neo-Nazism. For Angela Merkel of Germany, Nicolas Sarkozy of France and David Cameron of Britain have all declared multiculturalism a failure. From votes in Switzerland to polls across the continent, Europeans want an end to the wearing of burqas and the building of prayer towers in mosques."

Buchanan concluded by pointing out that "Breivik may be right," in asserting that "a climactic conflict between a once-Christian West and an Islamic world that is growing in numbers and advancing inexorably into Europe for the third time in 14 centuries," is coming down the pike.

Buchananism "will live long after [he] has departed this mortal coil'

"Buchanan's brand of Christian nationalist xenophobia has been picked up by others, guaranteeing it will live on long after Buchanan has departed this mortal coil," Rob Boston, Senior Policy Analyst at Americans United, told me in an email. "That's his true legacy. ... The trail he blazed is now well traveled by Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Dinesh D'Souza and a host of others."

Boston noted that: "The Breivik shooting is a textbook example of what's wrong with today's cultural warriors of the far right. An angry and hate-filled man killed more than 70 people -- many of them young -- in cold blood. Yet so many on the right seem unable to condemn this without adding a ‘but.' That we have come to this pass -- and that so few public commentators have the guts to stand up and call the right out for the cranks that they are -- is a telling indicator of the great moral confusion these so-called guardians of public virtue have spawned."

Leonard Zeskind pointed out that while Buchanan is not the Buchanan of the past, he still has a following: "Even if he does not have three million votes behind him, he still has [many] people who listen to [him] everyday. At the same time, he has been eclipsed by the Tea Partiers, who embody, in part, his constituency of yesteryear. The Tea Partiers are the Buchananites of the past, moving into the future."

 

Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer covering right-wing groups and movements.