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. 

Josh Doggrell

Josh Doggrell

9 Responses

  1. Vince Cornell says:

    Thank you Mr. Doggrell – I was completely unaware of this little bit of political history. It’s a shame Pat Buchanan was never given a chance – perhaps he was too early regarding the sentiments amongst the majority of Americans but he has all if not more of the correct policies that Trump has championed with a great deal more of the Statesman qualities of which Trump is lacking. I used to attend the same parish as Mr. Buchanan, and my wife made him a Pumpkin Bread after Obama’s first election win. We figured it had been a hard year for him, trying to speak sense through the brazenly hostile news media, and he deserved whatever comfort he could get.

  2. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    In practical political terms, Buchanan never had the ghost of a chance. His party hated him, he did not have the war chest, and he had not learned the art of electioneering the hard way. Before Trump’s fluke election–which was a clear sign that the system had broken down–there is no parallel for a campaign like PJB’s ever coming close to winning. Astonishingly, he and his wife and sister actually believed they could succeed. We discussed this, albeit indirectly, at a fundraiser I had helped arrange. As a joke, I reminded him that the last presidential candidate who threatened to clean up the GOP was James Garfield. If Pat had come even remotely close to winning the nomination, he would have suffered the same fate. I was happy to support Pat and did what little I could to help, but his campaigns was entirely Quixotic.

  3. Dot says:

    Sorry, but I have voted Republican ever since I was old enough to vote and that was a very long time ago. Now, the Republican party is being fractioned into either liberal or “staunch-right waco”. There is no such thing as conservative any more. One cannot call himself conservative yet agree with some liberal views. Everything is either black or white however way one wants to define it. This country has become nothing but a tower of babel.

    The far left media it to be blamed for the intense division that this election has brought to this country. It is, in my stupid way of thinking, that it was and is an abuse of first amendment rights by supporting all of the demonstrations that went on this year. The demonstrations were not peaceful. There was no petitioning to the Government for redress of grievances. There was mayhem, violence, rioting, looting and damage to private property.

    All politics is divisive. Trump now, in my reading of this article, is now Mr. Bad Guy and the Republicans are worse. Did you write that Trump now is borrowing Buchanan ideas? Hmmm! Should he sue Trump? Buchanan had choices to continue to publicly voice his opinions to the American people.

    Yes, I am hoping the The Donald wins re-election. The police should NOT be defunded. We don’t need to be defending wars all over the world, however, we need a strong military to defend our homeland. Fracturing for oil is fine with me. We need to finish that wall but I doubt if it will work. What will work better is to add a tax on the countries south of us for goods entering into the US. The South Americans don’t mind a bit if their citizens enter the US. They will just send American dollars back to South America. The Democratic agenda is too left for my way of thinking and I hope that prevails with a Trump win. Mia Culpa.

  4. Josh Doggrell says:

    Dot: “Did you write that Trump now is borrowing Buchanan ideas? Hmmm! Should he sue Trump?”

    I certainly did write that Trump took up the Buchanan platform on immigration and trade, but it was not a slam on Trump. In comments after the election of 2016, Buchanan himself seemed genuinely delighted that the positions he championed for so long had found a voice in Trump and his movement. Many of us of the old “Buchanan Brigades” knew these issues could win with what Sam Francis once termed “Middle American Radicals (MARS).”

    I was hoping that my last paragraph illustrated the point that principled protest campaigns such as Wallace’s in the sixties and seventies and Pat’s in the nineties could still be useful even when their initial advocates are seen as “losers” at the time they espouse them. Wallace was instrumental in dragging both parties rightward in his time, and Buchanan was also successful in doing it with the GOP in his own time.

  5. theAlabamian says:

    Great article Josh ! I didn’t realize the significance of Buchanan’s run or the history you presented period. I voted for George Bush in 2000, and it was the first time I was able to vote. I had just turned 18 that September. I didn’t really become interested in politics until years later. I also did not realize Trump ran in 2000, and Wow! at the contrast you pointed out in his statements then and now.
    Thank you Josh.

  6. Dot says:

    Mr. Doggrell: Yes, I did write that. I was only thinking of that in our time of suing someone for borrowing his ideas. It was harmless. He is very knowledgeable and I have high regard for him. Given the times, he is one person I can trust when reading his articles.

    I am very concerned about this election and where we may be headed.

  7. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Do not forget Ross Perot. In my opinion, Trump is a more successful Perot. He is a third-party candidate who won by hijacking the Republican Party. If he manages to win re-election he should move to rename the Party.

  8. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    The term conservative has hardly any content now, and what content it had 50 years ago was an ad hoc construct by Frank Meyer and some of his colleagues at NR. Their synthesis was an unholy shotgun wedding between tradition and libertarianism. It made a kind of sense, if you shut one eye, but it had absolutely no coherence. Even in the early 19th century, the term referred to a kind of attitude of people that tried to steer a middle course between the Revolution and reactionary movements opposed to the Revolution. It meant little then, less in the 1960s and nothing today. This whole business of having opinions, assuming loyalties the way one puts on a new coat or picks a piece of pie in a cafeteria line leads simple people astray.

  9. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    As a Reactionary I believe the Revolutionaries (Progressives) are deluded and wrong about everything. Unfortunately their numbers continue to grow.