So National Review’s Kevin D. Williamson wrote an acute piece on some of the continuities between Donald Trump’s supporters and those of Pat Buchanan in 1996 (there’s probably a link to Perot in ’92, but his appeal was more technocratic and less splenetic). The resentful psychology of a man trying to prove his manhood and needing scapegoat for his undeserved situation Kevin draws is acute, and indeed was very much the case with the Buchanan campaign. For you kids who came in late and missed the opéra bouffe of the ’90s, here is a piece which I couldn’t find anywhere on the internet, but which, fortunately, was in the bottom of my file drawer. (We used to use paper, kids. I know, lulz.)
It’s dated and specific, and I don’t even know if the man himself would agree with all of it these days, but for your edification (and entertainment—there are some good lines and the writing’s characteristically deft)…
Stupid and Contagious
April 18, 1996
There’s a voice you can hear any night of the week in half the cities of the world, in Dublin, Sydney, Liverpool, Chicago, in Southie in Boston, on Fordham Road in the Bronx, in any place named Molly McWhatall’s or Micky O’Soforth’s or nicknamed the Bucket of Blood. It’s the voice of a big man with a well-thumbed nose and beef-tinted cheeks. He wears a tan raincoat, and there’s a tweed on his bean the color of, and as clean as, a welcome mat. Booze spills over the edge of his glass. Gut spills over the edge of his belt. You can hear him all the way at the other end of the bar even on open-mike night with three drunk fiddlers, a tin-whistle artist and a 200-pound tenor performing “The Wild Colonial Boy.”
“It’s the Jews that have all the good jobs,” says the Whiskey Warrior. “Took them all when we weren’t looking. Why, a man used to be able to get a job paying 50, 60, no, a hundred dollars an hour at any factory just for loading boxes on a truck, till the Jews took all the jobs away. But do you think the Jews work those jobs themselves not on your life. Who ever saw a Jew lift anything heavier than a $20 bill? No, they sold the jobs to illegal immigrants, they did, little brown foreigners all over the place who’ll work so cheap that come payday, they line up and give the bosses money back. I’d build a wall right across the whole of Mexico, if it was me. Call it the Great Wall of Chicano. Or just make English the official language. That’s all you have to do. They wouldn’t even know that talking Spanish was illegal, because the law’d be in English. So they’d all go to jail instead of taking our jobs away. Something that never would have happened if all these companies hadn’t started hiring women—women executives this and women vice presidents that and women chair-broads of the board. Women can’t stand up to the Jews and the foreigners. They aren’t aggressive enough. They don’t have the old tallywhacker swinging back and forth between their knees. And what about our taxes that the women and foreigners and Jews have been raising to buy black helicopters for the United Nations? …”
Well, I’m a mick myself, a had harp from the inevitable big, rowdy family. I have more uncles than most people have coat hangers in the front hall closet. And I’ve been hearing the Whiskey Warrior all my life—from the other end of the bar and, indeed, from the other end of the dinner table. I know that fellow holding up the mahogany in O’Soforth’s. Let’s call him Pat. Hell, let’s call him Pat Buchanan. And let me tell you a few things about the boy.
In the first place, he’s a Democrat. I know Pat says he’s not, but it’s more of his malarkey. He’s a Democrat of the old-fashioned sorehead, ignoramus school. He attacks corporations for laying off employees. Does Pat think the corporations should just keep the employees hanging around, making butt prints on the office photocopier and using their desktop PCs to visit paramilitary Web sites? Or maybe the government should decide who gets fired. That works so well at the post office. And Pat is outraged by big corporate profits. Sure, the economy always performs brilliantly without them. What does Pat think happens to profits? That money couldn’t just go right back into the economy or anything. Somebody, probably with a stein on the end of his name, must be hoarding all the cash so that it can all be smeared with chocolate by National Endowment for the Humanities-sponsored performance artists. Maybe the government should decide how big profits should be. That works so well with the post office, too. Pat hates free trade. Now, there are few things all economists agree upon, except that all other economists should be sewn up in a sack with Michael Milken. But every half-sane economist on earth says that free trade benefits the great mass of humanity. Dumping NAFTA and GATT and pasting huge tariffs on goods form slanty-eyed places would bloat prices, destroy export industry jobs and devastate Pat’s own blue-collar constituency—and serve them right for voting for the drip. Nor does Pat want to reform Social Security and Medicare. Just let the cost of living allowances balloon and the government trust funds shrivel, and when we retire we’ll all get $10,000 a month, and reduced-rate seniors’ bus fare to go to the doctor will cost $7,500.
Pat Buchanan is a big-government guy. He’s the loudest advocate for federal expansion since Hillary Clinton tossed her cookies in the health-care fiasco. And pat not only wants the government to keep doing what it’s doing wrong, he wants it to do a lot of new wrong things besides. He wants to take solemn, indeed sacred, moral questions such as abortion and marriage and turn them into muddy political footballs. He wants to run the pigskin horde of government through intimate and confidential territories of our lives—religion, sex, culture, language. Next, no doubt, he’ll try to make all Ten Commandments into federal laws. House bill HR 7085—Honor They Father and Thy Mother. Knock, knock. “FBI here. Talk to your mom like that again and it’s 25 years to life.”
This is not conservatism as I know it. You can call Pat Buchanan a lot of things—fascist, statist, cryptosocialist, jerk—and that’s what you should call him. But don’t try to put Buchanan in the same online chat room as Barry Goldwater and Lady Margaret Thatcher unless you have your V-chip installed.
Conservatism means faith in the individual, in every individual, even if that individual has a funny name and comes from way far away.
Conservatism means belief in private property because individuals can have no substantive freedom unless they are secure in the ways and means of their lives. Buchanan’s economic nationalism would tie your property rights to hare-brained patriotism: No U-turn on red—except for American cars.
Conservatism means trust in religious and moral traditions because vast numbers of people have accepted these traditions voluntarily and because their acceptance has withstood the test of time. There’s no place in modern, pluralistic conservatism for the legal denigration of one set of traditions and glorification of another. People have to work that out for themselves, among themselves. And there’s no such thing as instant traditions—however much the Christian Coalition may want to create some. Nor can religion and morality be effectively imposed form the outside unless Buchanan thinks he’s Moses descending with the tablets form the mount (and given his record on anti-Semitism, I don’t think so).
And conservatism means belief in the free market. Not because the free market is virtuous or fair—it’s not. The free market is just information. It tells us, to the penny, what people will pay for a thing. Buchanan’s tacit pleas for a Soviet-style industrial policy disparage the free market. He might as well disparage arithmetic. “A lot of our schoolkids are having trouble remembering the seven-times-seven thing,” Buchanan could say. “This is hard on them. We need to change that. Elect me and I will make seven times seven equal 50. It’s fairer for the kids.”
Shut up, Pat. And listen to me. I spend some time down at O’Soforth’s myself, filled wiht coffin varnish and beating the air with my jaw. Let me give you my own beery vision of the good life. I want that great tavern, that giant saloon which is America, to be filled wiht all kinds of people of each creed and hue, of both sexes and every proclivity, people with diverse tastes, aims, ambitions, ideals and ideas, and plenty of immigrants among them. And I want them all shouting. I want to watch them battle for their points of view, fight their fights with society and each other. I want to see each one of them trying to make the nation over in his or her own image.
And what a bar brawl it is—polemics tossed, dialectics shattered, chairs of empiricism smashed over heads of ideology, aged prejudices heaved through windows of young opinion, theories given the bum’s rush by facts. But I want this to be a private free-for-all, a duke-out among independent citizens. And Pat Buchanan insists on getting the government involved. Pat, the big sissy, keeps wanting to call the police.