Pat Buchanan's Basest Instinct
Pat Buchanan is the first Republican I've ever considered voting for. Since the day in October of 1972 when my mom took me along with her to pass out McGovern fliers, I've been a committed Democrat -- or at least a militant anti-Republican. When Democrats jumped into bed with Reagan to support his rancid budgetary attack on the 90 percent of Americans who aren't rich, it broke my heart. Nonetheless, I still turned out to work on Mondale and Dukakis' Dem-lite campaigns. And I voted for Clinton in 1992. But after four years of watching him appoint and suck up to Republicans, I'll never vote for him again.This is where Pat Buchanan comes in. Recently, an ABC-TV news commentator noted: "He's the only candidate talking about issues people really care about." In particular, out of the single Democratic and nine Republican presidential candidates, Nixon's ex-speechwriter is the only one who opposes unfettered free trade.The big trade deals of '93 and '94 are old news to the national media, but for the millions of Americans who sense that they're being managed by their leaders like so much cattle, NAFTA and GATT are key issues.Since the early 1980s, the United States has joined a long list of countries subjected by bankers and third-rate politicians to "structural adjustment" policies. Under semi-secret agreements like the 1986 Plaza Accord, central banks and multinational corporations have agreed to keep American wages low and unemployment high to control inflation. Citizens never hear about these economic accords, much less get a chance to vote on them.Only corporate executives, shareholders and complete idiots deny that radical free-trade agreements encourage companies to export high-paying American jobs to countries that convert them to low-paying ones. They reduce wages, worker protection laws and environmental regulations to the lowest common denominator of the participating nations.In fact, opposition to free trade is one of the few issues that Americans on both sides of the political spectrum agree upon. Yet, so far the former Crossfire host has been the only political figure to capitalize on it.Alarmed by Buchanan's success at exploiting anti-free trade sentiment, journalists and other candidates have taken to accusing him of socialist economic tendencies.They're half right.Buchanan balances his fiery anti-corporate rhetoric with the rabid Bible-thumping that earned him Molly Ivins' famous quip about his 1992 address to the Republican National Convention: "I liked it better in the original German." "This is a victory...for conservatives who will bravely stand up for the right of the innocent unborn," he crowed after his second-place finish in Iowa. He called gay marriages "illicit and immoral...It's ain't a marriage...and it's wrong. The core values and core ideas of Western civilization are the Christian faith," he ranted.This is where Buchanan loses voters like me. Like many Americans, I consider gay marriages a bit kitschy, but certainly no threat to the Republic. Like many other Roman Catholics, I don't recommend abortion as the cheap contraception alternative, but other people's choices are not my business.The Buchanian platform also includes such proto-fascist standards as expelling illegal immigrants and evicting the United Nations from New York.If this doesn't sound familiar, it should.During the democratic German elections of 1931 and 1932, the only candidate willing to discuss unemployment as a problem rather than a policy was Adolf Hitler. The then-decade-old National-Socialist Party appealed to both right-wing fanatics and disaffected working-class leftists with a witches' brew of economic nationalism and appeals to individual responsibility. Like Buchanan, they also flirted with the conservative wing of the Catholic Church, and opposed immigration and the League of Nations.In his classic study, The Nazi Seizure of Power, William Allen describes how voters who were frustrated with the traditional political parties turned to the Nazis. In the '20s and '30s, while German living standards eroded and unemployment rose, Nazis opened emergency housing and food kitchens for the poor. Hitler's genius lay in allying traditional conservatives with poor workers.It's easy to see how the brilliant former architect of such Nixon-era dirty tricks as the "Southern strategy" that race-baited white and black Democrats is employing similar scuzzy tactics in the Republican primaries. Whether America's arcane system of representative democracy has now deteriorated to the point that Buchanan will win the White House remains to be seen.Regardless, Buchanan's early successes serve as a warning. If American voters don't start to see their economic concerns addressed by mainstream politicians soon, they could easily by seduced by facile extremists.Pat Buchanan obviously knows his history. Does anyone else?