Phone it in Friday XXXII: Pat Buchanan’s Legacy

It’s a true Phone it in Friday today, as this post is (slightly) late, and I’m going to keep it brief due to time constraints.

Patrick J. Buchanan, the great writer and political analyst, officially retired from his decades-long career in journalism a few weeks ago.  His influence in conservative politics is hard to overstate.  Even though he spent much of his career since the 1990s as the alternative paleoconservative voice in an increasingly interventionist and neoliberal Republican Party, that disciplined commitment to his values and the original vision of the American Founding made him one of the most impactful political figures of our time.

I wrote more extensively about Buchanan’s legacy in a piece for American Patriot Radio entitled “Pat Buchanan’s America” back in 2017, in the early months of the Trump administration.  Trump, in many ways, was the political apotheosis of Buchanan’s views on trade, immigration, and the culture wars.  Put more simply:  no Buchanan, no Trump.

The Z Man dedicated an entire episode of his podcastThe Z Blog Power Hour, to Pat Buchanan.  It is well worth the listen.

One point Z Man and others have made is that Buchanan was a loser in practical politics, but he’s won out after the fact.  The history of the conservative movement in America is full of examples of the “necessary loser,” as I’ll call the phenomenon—an individual who fails politically—often spectacularly!—but from the ashes of his failure rises a delayed victory.

The greatest example is Barry Goldwater, who lost in a humiliating landslide in 1964 to Lyndon B. Johnson.  But Goldwater’s campaign brought his ideas to the public through the form of Ronald Reagan, who would become the most impactful president of the second half of the twentieth century.  It only took sixteen years after Goldwater’s historic loss for Reagan to enjoy his historic victory.

That should give conservatives some relief.  Pat Buchanan failed in 1992 and 1996 to seize the Republican nomination, and failed to win the presidency in 2000 on the Reform Party ticket.  But twenty-four years after his first loss, Donald Trump won the presidency, running largely on ideas Buchanan had long espoused.

Twenty-four years is a long time, much less sixteen, but in the span of history, it’s the blink of an eye.  Things might look bleak right now, but who knows what “necessary loser” is currently laying the groundwork for future success?


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