Patrick Buchanan Reveals Himself to Be the First Trumpist

Patrick Buchanan Reveals Himself to Be the First Trumpist, by Joe Klein.

Patrick J. Buchanan is a merry troglodyte, a naughty provocateur. He still calls homosexuality “sodomy,” just to get the goat of a community he will only reluctantly call “gay.” He writes that he wanted to be named ambassador to South Africa by President Ford so he could support the apartheid government. He thinks public television is “an upholstered playpen” for liberals. He considers “The New York Times” an epithet. His stump appearances in his outlaw 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns were a guilty pleasure for the reporters who followed him, a hilariously clever, and prescient, exhibition of right-wing populism. “Buchanan,” Richard Nixon once told him, “you’re the only extremist I know with a sense of humor.” …

And it is Buchanan, not Nixon, who emerges as the central — and most intriguing — character in “Nixon’s White House Wars,” an entertaining memoir of that benighted presidency. …

Buchanan, the house wing nut, finds all this moderation frustrating; he began as a peripheral figure in the Nixon White House, a political gunslinger perhaps a bit too hot for the high-rent nuances of governance. Over time, however, Nixon realized that the “liberal establishment” was unwilling to cut him a break — even as he created the Environmental Protection Agency and maintained many Great Society programs — and a gunslinger could have his uses. Buchanan’s pen provided the ammunition for Vice President Spiro Agnew’s attacks on the media (which seem downright civilized compared with current presidential standards). But Nixon sensed that Buchanan was onto something much bigger than vitriol, a new grand strategy for the Republican Party, a new majority anchored by the white working class, not just in the South, but also in the Northern ethnic, mostly Catholic, enclaves. This philosophy has been the driving vision of Buchanan’s life. It has made him one of the most consequential conservatives of the past half-century. Indeed, he’s a reactionary who was also an avatar: the first Trumpist. …

The country that Nixon inherited in 1969 was “no longer one nation and one people, but a land divided by war and race and culture and politics.” The Establishment was feckless, guilt-driven, hypocritical. Buchanan saw school busing to achieve racial integration as a domestic Vietnam. It was social engineering imposed by a liberal judiciary upon white ethnic communities — the Irish, Italians, Poles — who had nothing to do with slavery. Once again, the rich kids weren’t drafted to ride the buses. Buchanan advised Nixon that the administration’s position should be: “outlawing all segregation, but not requiring racial balance.” This line extends to affirmative action, which he calls “racial injustice.” These are the opening battles of Buchanan’s culture war. His case is primal and compelling. These issues are not merely about tribal racial prejudices; they are about class. …

Nixon won the 1972 election in a historic landslide, using Buchanan’s strategy, but lost the war. Buchanan was boggled by Watergate, which he considered stupid. Why bug the Democrats when Nixon’s new majority is about to win bigly?