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Trump, Before Trump

Updated: May 17

The ghost of Pat Buchanan returns to haunt Democrats — and some Republicans



With the national debt nearing $35 trillion, the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives on Saturday approved a foreign aid package totaling $95 billion.

 

In three separate bills, lawmakers voted to funnel nearly $61 billion to Ukraine, more than $26 billion to Israel, and some $8 billion to Taiwan and other Indo-Pacific allies.

 

Meanwhile, earlier in the day, the House rejected a bill to strengthen U.S. border security, 215-199. 


‘America First’ lawmakers were incensed by the passage of the aid package, skewering the hypocrisy of safeguarding other nations’ borders while neglecting our own. Meanwhile, other Republicans voiced frustration with their MAGA colleagues, arguing that they themselves are to blame for the lack of progress on border security, owing to their unwillingness to compromise with Democrats. 


In short, what a mess. 

 

Interestingly, the intraparty feud on Capitol Hill happened to coincide with the appearance on social media of a clip, dating back to the early 1990s, of conservative icon and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan engaged in a fork-in-the-road fight over the direction of the GOP, and over the course of America itself. Coming across the video — an extract from an early Buchanan campaign speech — I was intrigued, and decided to take a closer look at his platform. In doing so, I was struck by three things: 1) the remarkable degree to which Buchanan’s policy prescriptions foreshadowed those of Donald Trump; 2) the prescience of his call, more than 30 years ago, for America to correct its course; and 3) the tragedy of our refusal to do so.


Buchanan vs. Bush

 

A comparatively mild recession notwithstanding, in January 1991, the United States was ascendant. The Cold War had ended. Europe was reveling in its new freedom, and the Soviet Union was entering its final days. It was a unique moment in time, full of optimism and opportunities to build anew.

 

Reflecting the zeitgeist, in his State of the Union address before Congress that year, President George H.W. Bush outlined his vision for an emerging “new world order” and America’s place in it — hailing a new, global configuration “where diverse nations are drawn together in common cause to achieve the universal aspirations of mankind.”  

 

The globalist picture Bush painted inspired some Americans, but it didn’t sit well with others, including Buchanan, a prominent D.C. insider.

 

A White House policy strategist, journalist, and political commentator, Buchanan had spent the majority of his career in Washington. Over the years, he had come to embrace a conservative political philosophy distinct from that of many Republican leaders. Branded paleoconservatism, this right-wing, traditionalist worldview championed nationalism, Judeo-Christian values, and non-interventionist foreign policy.


Like Bush, Buchanan understood how critical the times were. But, he was emphatic that the United States should go in a different direction than that which the president was espousing. He warned that Bush’s globalist vision, if implemented, would end badly for the country, and instead called on Republicans to cultivate new policies aimed at putting “America first.”

 

Seeking to provide Americans with a political alternative, Buchanan decided to challenge Bush for the GOP presidential nomination in the lead-up to the 1992 general election.

 

Announcing his candidacy on December 10, 1991, he pledged “to take my party back, and to take our country back,” noting how important it would be for the United States to choose the correct path forward at that pivotal moment in history:


"The long, Cold War between Communism and freedom, in which many of us invested lives and careers, is ending. Some of us thought we would never see the day that Communism was defeated and the empire of Lenin and Stalin was dismantled. But it has happened, and it is happening. By the grace of God, America won the Cold War. As we Americans congratulate ourselves on the victory for freedom that we, first and foremost, won, and won together for all mankind, we must begin to prepare for the new struggles that are already underway."

The titanic transition set in motion by the defeat of the Soviet Union would require a top-to-bottom reassessment of every practice and convention, Buchanan declared.

 

“All the institutions of the Cold War, from vast permanent U.S. armies on foreign soil, to old alliances against Communist enemies that no longer exist, to billions in foreign aid, must be reexamined,” he said.

 

As an example, he challenged the idea that the United States should continue footing the bill for NATO.


“With a $4 trillion debt, with a U.S. budget chronically out of balance, should the United States be required to carry indefinitely the full burden of defending rich and prosperous allies who take America's generosity for granted as they invade our markets?” he asked.

 

Likewise, he called for the reevaluation of foreign aid.


“It is time to end these routinized, annual transfers of national wealth to global bureaucrats who ship it off to regimes and pay us back with compound ingratitude. It is time to phase out foreign aid and to start looking out for the forgotten Americans right here in the United States," he said.


Summarizing his vision for the country, Buchanan proclaimed, “So today we call for a new patriotism, where Americans begin to put the needs of Americans first; for a new nationalism, where in every negotiation — be it arms control or trade — the American side seeks advantage and victory for the United States.”


Buchanan contrasted his dream for America with the globalist ambitions manifesting across the Atlantic, where in 1991 the European Community (EC — forerunner of the European Union, or EU) was accelerating its march toward federalization: 


“In Europe, many of the ancient states are signing up to exchange their national sovereignty for a limited partnership in an economic co-op called the EC," he warned.


A full quarter-century before Brexit, Buchanan took special note of the federalist noose that was beginning to tighten around the United Kingdom's neck, observing that "today, a conservative prime minister is being pressed ... to lead the mother of parliaments into yielding up to bureaucrats in Brussels what generations of British soldiers have fought to preserve."


"Friends," he implored, "we Americans must not let that happen here. We must not trade in our sovereignty for a cushioned seat at the head table of anybody’s new world order.”


Underscoring his point, Buchanan issued a stark warning about President Bush: “He is a globalist, and we are nationalists. He believes in some Pax Universalis. We believe in the old Republic. He would put America’s wealth and power at the service of some vague new world order. We will put America first.”

 

Buchanan’s vision wasn’t limited to political or economic concerns. As a staunch Roman Catholic, he understood the impact that virtue — or the lack thereof — has on a society, and he sought to safeguard the moral life of the nation.

 

Buchanan’s vision wasn’t limited to political or economic concerns. As a staunch Roman Catholic, he understood the impact that morality — or the lack thereof — had on the life of a nation.


“When we say we will put America first, we mean also that our Judeo-Christian values are going to be preserved,” he declared. “And our Western heritage is going to be handed down to future generations, and not dumped onto some landfill called multiculturalism.”

 

Unfortunately, Buchanan was deemed too radical, too far to the right, to govern. He was bitterly opposed, not just by Democrats, but by the wider establishment/RINO class entrenched within the Republican Party. His message, replete with warnings about the America to come if Bush won, did not resonate with enough Republicans; in the 1992 primaries he fell far short of what he needed to seriously challenge Bush for the nomination, garnering roughly 3 million primary votes, or 23 percent of ballots cast. Later bids, in 1996 as a Republican and in 2000 as a Reform Party candidate, ended in defeat, as well.

 

Even so, more than thirty years after launching his initial presidential bid, Buchanan’s message to the American people seems almost prophetic. What would America be had we chosen to eschew "endless war" imperialism for a beneficent 'America First' nationalism? If we had chosen to funnel countless billions into projects here at home, rather than the pockets of dubious regimes across the globe? If we had chosen to set up new factories on U.S. shores rather than sweatshops overseas?


America was given a choice in 1992. We chose poorly, and we lost. That is the hard lesson that we — at least, those of us with eyes to see — have been learning for decades now.


America faces another choice in 2024. November 5 offers us an opportunity — perhaps a final one — to begin undoing some of the damage that our previous decisions have wrought.


Buchanan is no longer an option. But Trump, who mirrors him in many ways politically and philosophically, is.


Writer, editor and producer Stephen Wynne has spent the past seven years covering, from a Catholic perspective, the latest developments in the Church, the nation and the world. Prior to his work in journalism, he spent eight years co-authoring “Repairing the Breach,” a book examining the war of worldviews between Christianity and Darwinism. A Show-Me State native, he holds a BA in Creative Writing from Pepperdine University and an Executive MBA from the Bloch School of Business at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.


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Most excellent article Steve Wynne!!!

Keep them coming!!!

🙏🗝🇻🇦🗝🙏

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I met Pat Buchanan back in 1991 in Dana Point, California at 'The Quiet Cannon' restaurant. After our conversation l caught him looking at me, possibly thinking l could help him with campaigning. These moments of connecting with decent heavyweights like him and dear Phyllis Schlafly are wonderful to remember...both of them devout Catholics. Yes, l too wish it was 1990 all over again. Bless you dear fellow Catholics. Phyllis...Rest in Peace!!!

🙏🗝🇻🇦🗝🙏

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If only I could go to sleep and wake up in 1990. This "New World Disorder" is hell.

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And you cannot dump babies onto the states, or a landfill, unless, of course, you haven't a conscience, and then, any comparison to authentic Catholicism or claiming to care about America is nearly meaningless. A toady for the globalist elites who want to reduce populations by fake vaccines with the euphemism Operation Warp Speed or medical fraud called by the euphemism women's healthcare does not impress me. We aren't going to be fooled again, fake vaccinator Albert Bourla, fake businessman Klaus Schwab, fake philanthropist Bill Gates, fake investor Warren Buffett, fake president Biden or fake Republicans who kill babies. You aren't reproducing anyone but more fakers and pretenders amongst yourselves.

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'p'...your comments are brilliant...well thought out!!!

Thank you so very much!!!

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