‘The Ideas Made It, But I Didn’t’
Pat Buchanan won after all. But now he thinks it might be too late for the nation he was trying to save.
>A quarter-century before Trump descended into the atrium of his Manhattan skyscraper to launch his unlikely bid for the White House, Buchanan, until then a columnist, political operative and TV commentator, stepped onto a stage in Concord, New Hampshire, to declare his own candidacy 10 weeks ahead of the state’s presidential primary. Associating the “globalist” President George H. W. Bush with “bureaucrats in Brussels” pursuing a “European superstate” that trampled on national identity, Buchanan warned his rowdy audience, “We must not trade in our sovereignty for a cushioned seat at the head table of anybody’s new world order!” His radically different prescription, which would underpin three consecutive runs for the presidency: a “new nationalism” that would focus on “forgotten Americans” left behind by bad trade deals, open-border immigration policies and foreign adventurism. His voice booming, Buchanan demanded: “Should the United States be required to carry indefinitely the full burden of defending rich and prosperous allies who take America’s generosity for granted as they invade our markets?”
>By 1992, the evolution was complete—“I was a full-fledged economic nationalist,” Buchanan says—and his crusade against the embodiment of globalism, President George H. W. Bush, became a surprise 10-week proxy war for the future of the Republican Party. Buchanan’s allies held out hope he could pull a historic upset in New Hampshire that would throw the entire nominating process into turmoil. But they knew it was terribly unlikely, and were thrilled when Buchanan captured 37 percent of the vote, even though it was still a double-digit defeat. He wound up winning nearly 3 million votes nationwide against Bush, and though he carried no states, was invited to speak at the party convention. When he delivered his fire-breathing “culture war” speech, urging Republicans to “take back” the country from the alien forces of militant secularism and liberal multiculturalism, Democrats said it was proof of a GOP tacking hard and fast to the right. That was the whole idea: Buchanan, unlike Trump 25 years later, was a committed social conservative who saw crusades against gay rights and abortion as part of the campaign to restore his ideal America. But they also limited his appeal, and some in the party establishment hold a grudge to this day, convinced Buchanan scared of
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