It's starting to look like it may actually have been a good thing that Pat Buchanan spouted off so nakedly about Sonia Sotmayor this week -- not so much that he did it, but that in doing so, he's finally provoked a serious response to the meaning of his ongoing presence in our national discourse.
People are finally starting to ask the question I asked back in 2006:
How much longer, one has to wonder, will our mainstream press continue to pretend that Pat Buchanan has not gone completely around the bend? That he is no longer the avuncular conservative from old episodes of Crossfire but a full-fledged extremist trying to resurrect the once-discredited ethos of white supremacism?
The evidence was more than abundantly clear back then, with the publication of his book State of Emergency, which was a vehicle for essentially a regurgitation of warmed-over eugenics theory from the 1920s. Buchanan was all over TV as well, spouting nonstop the fear that white people were losing their majority and with it their political power, swept away by a tide of brown people from Latin America.
Alexander Zaitchik's report for the SPLC hit the nail on the head:
To put it plainly, State of Emergency is a white nationalist tract. The thesis is that America must retain a white majority to survive as a nation. It is rooted in a blood-and-soil nationalism more blood than soil. The echoes of Nazi ideology are clear and chilling. As Buchanan helpfully explained to John King, who was interviewing him in one of his several CNN appearances: "We gotta get into race and ethnic questions."
Indeed, Buchanan has a not-inconsiderable role in the history of white nationalism in America in the past 20 years -- particularly the role he has had in mainstreaming supremacist beliefs, many of which are either fallacious or crudely racist. Leonard Zeskind devotes a sizable chunk of his marvelous history of the movement, Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream, to dealing with Buchanan and his sizable impact.
After all, he's been at this a long time. In a columm he wrote back in 1989 defending David Duke and chiding the GOP for overreacting to him, he counseled movement conservatives thus:
"Take a hard look at Duke's portfolio of winning issues and expropriate those not in conflict with GOP principles, [such as] reverse discrimination against white folks." (syndicated column, 2/25/89)
At the time, Duke had just finished running for president on the Populist Party ticket. His chief platform position in that campaign: stopping immigration before Latin Americans overwhelm the country. A couple of years later, Buchanan tried to claim that Duke was copying him, but it's clear from the chronology that it worked the other way around.
The good thing about the attention Buchanan has brought on himself is that it may finally shine a spotlight on the persistent and malignant influence of white nationalism on our national discourse and our body politic. Looking as we are at pan-racial, multicultural future, our success is going to hinge on our abilities to find ways to break down the old racial barriers that were erected by white supremacists -- whose worldview was dominant in the USA for decades -- a century ago and more. And as Pat Buchanan has been demonstrating, they will only go kicking and screaming.