THE STAUNCH-RIGHT WACKO VOTE
In the fall of 2020, Donald Trump has taken much flak from the left for, in their estimation, his refusal to denounce “white supremacy” and the far right. The first time he ran for president, it was Trump making the same accusations in a losing effort.
The first time was not 2016 against Hillary Clinton. In a mostly forgotten episode of history, Trump actually ran in 2000. And, interestingly enough, it was him railing against his opponent for supporting economic nationalism, an America First foreign policy, a conservative social policy, and being cozied up with “racists.”
Patrick J. Buchanan had campaigned for the GOP nomination in 1992 and 1996. He had done very well in 1996 before the elites within the party finally succeeded in pushing him out for one of the most boring candidates since the invention of the television, Bob Dole. Thus, we were denied the opportunity to see Buchanan get a shot at blistering Slick Willie in the debates and forced to watch a hapless and uninspiring Dole lose handily to the Clintons.
After Pat faced criticism from liberal Republicans for his “Culture War” speech on the floor of the convention in prime time in 1992, he was frozen out of the 1996 convention. Disenchanted with the “Big Tent” approach of The Stupid Party, he entered his name for Ross Perot’s Reform party nomination in 2000. His main opponent was none other than The Donald, who had the same hairstyle he sports today, only with more of it. And, just to show he was serious, at Donald’s side was his Reform cheerleader, former “professional” wrestler Jessie “The Body” Ventura.
It is intriguing listening to Trump today when recalling his campaign against Buchanan. Then, Donald went on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show and called Pat “a Hitler lover” and “an anti-Semite…[who] doesn’t like the blacks, he doesn’t like the gays…” Trump told America that Buchanan’s supporters were the “staunch-right wacko vote.”
Since that campaign, much like the Reform party itself, is largely forgotten, its significance is as well. Trump lost the nomination to Buchanan. Pat drew only about one percent of the vote in the general election that November. The part he played is mostly remembered for the fact that his name on the ballot was on top of Al Gore’s, Ralph Nader’s (Green Party) and George W. Bush’s due to the alphabetical layout. This contributed to the “hanging-chad” confusion in Florida, where it was apparent many erroneously voted for Pat while meaning to punch the hole for Gore. The result was a disputed election and the robed ones deciding the matter in Bush v. Gore. The rest is history, which included sixteen years of Republican and Democratic rule that gave us more foreign wars, recession, further wealth redistribution, nationally-mandated health care, more massive immigration and open borders, and many other things Pat Buchanan ran against.
2000 was Pat’s last presidential campaign. In its aftermath he was as prophetic as ever: “But when the chickens come home to roost, this whole coalition will be there for somebody… There’s no doubt these issues can win. But 2000 might not be the year for them.”
Sixteen years later, a new Donald Trump emerged onto the political scene. By this time, according to Pat’s sister Bay Buchanan, Trump had called on Pat and apologized for his smear campaign against him, admitting he was wrong. Moreover, Trump embraced the Buchanan platform of an America First foreign policy, enforcement of illegal immigration, and fair trade. Then Trump proceeded to ride what he had called the “staunch-right wacko vote” (newly christened “Deplorables” by Hillary Clinton) all the way to Washington, thereby denying Bill Clinton a chance of four more years of debauchery in the White House.
There is a lesson to be learned here. As any conservative knows, ideas have consequences. Pat Buchanan was a true conservative, unlike so many phonies who have masqueraded under that label before and since. His platform was a breath of fresh air to a stale GOP that had become, as George Wallace declared so often, one side of the same coin with the Democrats. Buchanan was laughed off the national stage by the smug snobs of the two major parties…yet, his ideas remained and percolated. When Donald Trump raised his right hand on January 20, 2017, they weren’t laughing anymore.