4 March 1996
Who's Afraid of Pat Buchanan?
America's Republican Party primaries are choosing their candidate for president
and the success of right-winger Pat Buchanan has raised fears of a resurgent
American isolationism. But it's the voters that the US elite is frightened
of, not Buchanan, writes James Heartfield.
'Buchanan is a master of the politics of fear - of newness, of turmoil,
of the unexpected and the outsider' according to Michael Elliott in one
of the six articles in Newsweek dedicated to vilifying the former broadcaster
(4 March 1996).
Republican candidate opposes immigration, the United Nations and homosexuality.
Well, hold the front page! Ever since Pat Buchanan wrote speeches for Nixon
republican candidates have used the politics of race, patriotism and bigotry
to get elected - and Buchanan kept on writing their speeches until he stood
against George Bush in 1992.
The case against Buchanan is that his are the politics of fear and hatred.
But the politics of fear and hatred used to be the stock-in-trade of Republican
politics, why are the party bosses denouncing Buchanan now?
Pat Buchanan has not changed his politics in all those years. He is just
as reactionary now as he always was. But the ruling elite in America has
changed. They do not want rabble-rousers any more, because they are frightened
of the rabble.
Bob Dole has not been won to the cause of gay rights any more than Newsweek
sympathises with the world's migrants. But they fear the possibility of
a right-wing populist movement in America much more. What they are really
frightened of is the judgement of the mass of people who have been disappointed
by the promises of American success.
Those fears are exaggerated. Buchanan is no Huey Long-style populist. He
is a Washington insider, a journalist and speech- writer, playing at being
a man of the people. All the fears of a right-wing populism, whether of
the Michigan militia or of California's anti-immigrant movement are overstated.
Buchanan's appeal is far from demonstrated by one win in New Hampshire.
It is the bad conscience of the American elite that persuades them that
the mob is gathering at the gate. The pols and journos know that the American
middle class has been betrayed and they fear the consequences.
More's the pity, no such reckoning, from the right or the left is on the
cards. But that will not stop the elite from stirring up a storm about Buchanan.
Attacking 'populism' is just the preparatory ground for attacking the people.
When the powers- that-be have talked themselves into it, they will not hesitate
to take away the votes of the people they think of as a mob.
Discuss issues surrounding the
US elections and the Buchanan phenomenon online: Tuesday 5 March 2300 GMT.
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