Patrick Buchanan may be a happy warrior in the mold of his hero Ronald Reagan, but in most of his recent books he has disputed that it is morning in America. Buchanan’s New York Times best-sellers Day of Reckoning, State of Emergency, and Death of the West have all painted portraits of decline. In the subtitle of his latest, Suicide of a Superpower, he asks, “Will America survive to 2025?”
“This book is published after ten years of war in Afghanistan, eight in Iraq, the worst recession and debt crisis America has faced since the 1930s, with the nation divided and seemingly everywhere in retreat,” the three-time presidential candidate and veteran conservative commentator writes in the introduction. “We have entered an era of austerity and retrenchment unlike any this generation has ever known.”
As dire as the country’s money problems are, Buchanan fears its moral problems are worse. “The faith dies, the culture dies, the civilization dies, and the people begin to die,” he says in a telephone interview. Can the party of American conservatism arrest and even reverse this decline?
“The Republican Party is a good party of good people with good values,” Buchanan says. “But under George W. Bush, it was a Great Society party, an interventionist party. That was bad for the party and bad for the country.” And the country’s changes are bad for the party.
“What happened in California is happening in America,” says Buchanan. He is referring to the largely immigration-driven demographic changes that have transformed the state that elected Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan into a Democratic bastion where John McCain was as competitive as Barry Goldwater. “When Texas goes the same way, it will become almost impossible for Republicans to win the presidency of the United States.”
But aren’t the anti-illegal immigration campaigns of Pete Wilson and Proposition 187 to blame for California’s Democratic turn? Surely Texas, governed by such compassionate Republicans as Rick Perry and George W. Bush rather than “heartless” ones like Buchanan and Wilson, will not go the same way.
Yet Perry, who was reelected in a landslide, won 38 percent of the Hispanic vote compared to 69 percent of Texas Anglos. In 2008, McCain carried just 31 percent of Hispanics nationally despite spending the better part of the previous decade as the Senate’s leading champion of an immigration amnesty.
“A majority of Hispanics are working class folks who are eligible for government support,” Buchanan reasons. “Why wouldn’t they vote for the party of government?” McCain Republicans, he says, favor “importing a huge number of people who are going to send us the way of the Whigs.”
Buchanan thinks some of his fellow Republicans are even more naive to expect that “a free trade agreement with Panama is going to save the country.” Pointing to $6.2 trillion in trade deficits and the loss of one-third U.S. manufacturing jobs in just the past decade, he argues that ideology has run up against experience.
“I was as big of a free trader and a Friedmanite as all the rest of these guys,” he continues. “But when your political philosophy is producing these kinds of results, you’ve got to take a second look at your philosophy.”
As the federal government teeters on the brink of insolvency, Democrats refuse to curb the social welfare state at home and Republicans are reluctant to contemplate retrenchment overseas. Buchanan says that spending must be cut, troops must come home, and rich allies must begin to defend themselves. He acknowledges that fiscal discipline would come at a political cost. “If Republicans get elected and do what must be done,” he predicts, “we’ll probably be out in 2014.”
The year that looms larger in Buchanan’s mind is 2041, when the Census Bureau projects, as Bill Clinton once put it, “there will be no majority race in the United States.” Buchanan describes this as “the end of white America.”
“God made all people good,” Buchanan explains. “But to be one nation, one people, you need some measure of national unity where you rise above those differences.” Unless held together by common customs, values, myths, and heroes, he worries about tribalism dividing Americans into “enclaves of hostility to one another” as has happened in other parts of the world where ethno-nationalism is on the rise. He maintains that we should slow down immigration and end government policies that treat Americans differently based on race.
So the country is divided, bankrupt, bogged down in war, and shedding jobs. Is there any hope? “I was similarly pessmistic during the Carter years,” Buchanan replies, citing the advances of the Soviet Union and Jimmy Carter’s malaise, but Reagan’s leadership and “the character of the American people” turned things around.
In any event, Buchanan says this will be his last tome of cultural pessimism. He’d rather think back to the good old days working for Richard Nixon.
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