Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I just read George Packer's essay The Fall of Conservatism in the New Yorker. He describes how Richard Nixon, and conservatives since then, practiced the politics of polarization to advance Republican fortunes, and appealed to the basest instincts of Americans toward that end. He quotes from a revealing memo written by Patrick Buchanan to Nixon in 1971, given to him by Buchanan himself. Buchanan warns him that it's "a little raw," and it is and a little racist as well.

Finally, the memo recommended exploiting racial tensions among Democrats. “Bumper stickers calling for black Presidential and especially Vice-Presidential candidates should be spread out in the ghettoes of the country,” Buchanan wrote. “We should do what is within our power to have a black nominated for Number Two, at least at the Democratic National Convention.” Such gambits, he added, could “cut the Democratic Party and country in half; my view is that we would have far the larger half.”
I will not go so far as to say that Patrick Buchanan was a racist in 1971, or that he is one now, but at the very least he has a blind spot for racism, and hangs out with racists. I have commented on this before in posts titled "Racism and the Conservative Movement," parts one and two.

The difference between Buchanan 1971 and Buchanan 2008 is that then he was a central part of the conservative movement, and today he is on the fringes. It is not a coincidence that his wing of conservatism is today often called paleoconservatism. It is a conservatism of the past, a conservatism of racism, or at least racialism, and at times anti-semitism as well. It is a conservatism that is primarily defined more by what it is against than what it is, namely the other, those people with different color skins, different religions or no religion, different sexual orientation.

Patrick Buchanan is probably a nice enough man, he is a shrewd political observer, and he often makes a lot of sense on foreign policy. Modern conservativism could learn something from his critique of neoconservatism. But even conservatism cannot go back; it must go forward.

2 Comments:

Blogger AitchD said...

We used to call guys like Buchanan 'reactionaries' to distinguish their full-bore, antagonistic ideologies from the more or less fiscal conservatives who cared mostly about taxation and its representation. Today's so-called 'paleoconservatives' are still reactionaries. They hate iPods, their parents hated the Walkman, their grandparents hated the transistor radio. Buchanan would fit the Hitchens characterization of the Italian fascisti: the far-right wing of the Catholic Church.

Do you think Buchanan approved of the Pill when it hit the market in 1960? I suppose he felt betrayed (among far worse emotional reactions) by the Catholic scientist, John Rock, who helped invent the Pill and who lobbied everywhere to secure its approval - but only after the sugar-pill sequence permitted menses so that the Catholic Church would consider the cycle to be 'natural'. The Pill, without the sugar-pill sequence, could eliminate periods (too many of which show a correlation to cervical cancer and breast cancer) - The New Yorker reported both the John Rock and the menses/cancer stories in separate issues.

7:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pat Buchanan is a NAZI and so are YOU and your cabal of idiotic braindead BLACK OPS blog-o-sphere fuck wads.

7:19 PM  

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