A few months back, I received a magazine in the mail. I hadn't ordered it, but there it was. "The American Conservative," the title blared in white-on-blue lettering.
There were two problems: It was anti-American, and it definitely wasn't conservative.
The articles railed against American "imperialism," the Weekly Standard and National Review, and Israel. Kevin Phillips ripped modern conservatism as "Wall Street, Big Energy, multinational corporations, the Military-Industrial Complex, the Religious Right, the Market Extremist think-tanks, and the Rush Limbaugh Axis." He urged readers to "support Democratic retention of at least the Senate."
Two weeks later, another issue of The American Conservative arrived. This issue urged the Bush administration against considering pre-emptive war. An editorial by Taki Theodoracopulos accused neoconservative Bill Kristol of being a spy for Israel's center-right Likud Party. Theodoracopulos discussed "American arrogance" and fulminated against Israel.
This was isolationist, anti-business, anti-Semitic, dumb economics garbage. And then I looked at the name of the editor: Patrick Buchanan.
For many Americans, the Pat Buchanan wing of the conservative movement drives their deep-seated fear of conservatives. When you look at Buchanan's work in recent years, it's not hard to see why.
His isolationist economic policy is myopic. In his column of Oct. 28, 2002, titled "The Poison Fruit of Free Trade," Buchanan goes on a ludicrous free-trade-bashing binge. Buchanan argues that because U.S. taxes are too high, we should raise tariffs in order to protect American industry.
This argument is stunningly ignorant for a person of Buchanan's "renown." Raising tariffs would push up prices of imports, thereby raising prices across the board. Consumption of goods would fall. Thousands of jobs in American industries would be lost. Real wages would also fall. The best example of the effects of high tariffs is the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, which most economists feel prolonged the Great Depression and exacerbated its effects.
Buchanan holds immigrants in contempt. Not just illegal immigrants -- even some who immigrate legally are not fit to be Americans in Buchanan's eyes. In his book, "The Death of the West," Buchanan writes that Mexican immigrants are problematic because they are "not only from another culture, but of another race," and that "different races are far more difficult to assimilate than different cultures." This is plain un-American. The color of your skin or the racial background of your parents should never disqualify you from becoming a true American. This is the most diverse nation on Earth, even if Buchanan would prefer that it not be.
Buchanan's anti-Semitism is well known. He has referred to Capitol Hill as "Israeli-occupied territory," in his magazine repeatedly attacks the "Jewish lobby" and blames Israel for the current intifada.
But Buchanan's favorite targets are what he calls neoconservatives (read: mainstream conservatives), who are "bent on reckless wars, global free trade and open borders." In the latest issue of his magazine, Buchanan also weaves in his favorite anti-Semitic canard, that neocons are driven by concern for the Jews and want "to conscript American blood to make the world safe for Israel." "We believe the great conservative movement has been hijacked and put into services that would appall the Founding Fathers," Buchanan told the Washington Times in an interview about the magazine. "Neocons are the useful idiots of the liberal establishment," Buchanan reiterated in his Dec. 30, 2002, column.
Buchanan, not the neocons, is the useful idiot of the liberal establishment. He and others like him (notables include Theodoracopulos) are used as straw men by the left. They make it much easier to characterize conservatives as racist and isolationist old white men. If conservatives wish to reach out to new constituencies, they must jettison the Buchananites.
Buchanan's brand of "conservatism" is closer now to the far left than it is to the mainstream right, as shown by his selection of socialist and black nationalist Lenora Fulani for his Reform Party running mate in the 2000 presidential election. Buchanan's wisdom and patriotism must be questioned when his election to the presidency would have placed an enemy of the nation a heartbeat away from the leadership of America.
The conservative movement has progressed beyond the ideology of Pat Buchanan. But if the conservative movement continues to tolerate him, even as a fringe character, it endangers the gains it has made.
Oh, and by the way: Mr. Buchanan, take me off your mailing list.