Pat Buchanan has been suspended from MSNBC since October. Apparently, someone at the network turned off the TV and picked up a book, namely Buchanan’s latest opus, Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?. Buchanan has been saying the same things for years, but he always metes out his extremism with care. You almost don’t notice what he’s saying, which I suppose is the only excuse for MSNBC’s late arrival to the party.
Suicide has a provocative title, but a thesis that’s fairly clear-headed. Who could argue with the fact that the United States is in decline in power and influence? Who could argue with the fact that its citizens feel pessimistic about the direction in which the country is headed?
Asking such questions is one of Buchanan’s rhetorical strategies. He’s not asserting anything; he’s simply asking. Another strategy, which he employs relentlessly throughout Suicide, is to quote others in the service of a message he won’t deliver himself—that black people are genetically inferior to white people; that we should acknowledge and embrace the Founders’ disregard for equality among the races. He’s a master aggregator.
Here’s one example of how he works. After quoting from Abraham Lincoln, he writes:
Lincoln is saying that a belief in white supremacy is a “universal feeling” of the “great mass of white people” in America. And he shares it. He believed in freedom for all, but not equality for all …
But what does Pat Buchanan believe? He knows better than to write that explicitly. But you get the idea. And so do the white-power radio hosts who invite him to appear on their show—invitations, incidentally, that he always accepts.
This new book isn’t more radical than his others. It rails against tribalism, ethnonationalism, diversity, multiculturalism—pluralities of every kind. It’s hard to know which disturbs Buchanan more: dark skin or non-believers. But it all comes to the same thing. We are in decline because we are not white enough or Christian enough.
Buchanan equates non-religiosity with low birth rate, which endangers the “European tribe.” He invokes the ultra-Orthodox in Israel, who don’t practice birth control, to prove a correlation between faith and large families.
It’s an odd connection. In the past, Buchanan has been accused of anti-Semitism, but in this book, he’s going for something … different. American Jews, he says, are an “endangered species.” But he blames Jewish women—Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in particular—for that fact. It it weren’t for Roe v. Wade and birth control, there’s no telling how many Jews there could be. He actually quotes Philip Roth, of all people, to make his point.
Of course, it’s not the Jews he’s worried about. He is consumed by worry for white Christians. In a chapter titled “The End of White America,” he notes that whites are going to become the minority in the United States. The whites who cheer the melting pot, he says, are engaged in “ethnomasochism”; he prefers those with a “white racial consciousness.”
He longs for a simpler time: segregation:
Back then, black and white lived apart, went to different schools and churches, played on different playgrounds, and went to different restaurants, bars, theaters, and soda fountains. But we were Americans. We spoke the same language, learned the same history, celebrated the same heroes, observed the same holy days and holidays, went to the same films, rooted for the same teams, read the same newspapers, watched the same TV shows … We were a people then.
Ah yes, those were the days.
When someone who seems like a reasonably intelligent person expresses grave concern for the future of white people, it sounds like he’s playing a character on a Saturday Night Live sketch. Yet the TV character turns out to be the Buchanan we see on MSNBC. The real Pat Buchanan writes sentences like: “Men have been discriminated against so relentlessly that women with jobs now outnumber them.” Or when referring to what made immigration work in the late-19th and early-20th centuries: “All these people were Europeans. All were white. Almost all were Christian.” And how about this one?: “Our cultural elite allies itself with those out to overthrow the old Christian order—ethnic militants, feminists, atheists—anticipating they will ride the revolution to power.” Watching Buchanan fence with Eleanor Clift on The McLaughlin Group, you’d never know he thought men were genetically superior to women (as he claims in this book).
It’s a shame we can’t just write Buchanan off as another crackpot like his friend, David Duke. The reckoning, as Pat might call it, is way overdue. ABC Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper, when he was an up-and-coming print journalist, wrote about Buchanan’s extremism for Salon:
Pat Buchanan is back in the presidential campaign saddle again, leaving a trail of racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic rhetorical dung behind him wherever he goes. But unlike in his two previous runs, this time around virtually no one seems willing to call him on it.
That was in 1999. The question now is: Are we ready to call him on it?