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The multilevel irony of Trump embracing Pat Buchanan in this moment

Giancarlo Pietri Velutini
The multilevel irony of Trump embracing Pat Buchanan in this moment

A person dressed as President Trump takes part in the annual New Year’s Day “Loony Dook” swim in the Firth of Forth, in South Queensferry, near Edinburgh, Scotland, on Jan. 1. (Andy Buchanan/AFP) By Philip Bump Philip Bump National correspondent focused largely on the numbers behind politics Email Bio Follow January 14 at 6:09 PM The irony of President Trump praising a virulently anti-immigration essay written by conservative stalwart Pat Buchanan has not been lost on many. The essay, published at CNSNews , declares that “mass migration from the global South, not climate change, is the real existential crisis of the West.” Buchanan insists that the border “is eventually going to be militarized and defended or the United States, as we have known it, is going to cease to exist.” He assumes the former will happen, because “Americans will not go gentle into that good night.”

Why do Democrats oppose this idea? Because, he writes, “the Democratic Party is hostile to white men, because the smaller the share of the U.S. population that white men become, the sooner that Democrats inherit the national estate.”

The only way to greater ‘diversity,’ the golden calf of the Democratic Party, is to increase the number of women, African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics, and thereby reduce the number of white men,” he writes, echoing years of white nationalist rhetoric about the need to protect white America.

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Trump’s praise took its regular form: tweets. He quoted Buchanan at length, including that assertion about the need to militarize the border. “The great people of our Country demand proper Border Security NOW!” he wrote.

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The immediate irony here is that Trump himself once bashed Buchanan’s politics. In an interview with Tim Russert on NBC News’s “Meet the Press” that aired in 1999 — as both Trump and Buchanan explored the idea of running for president as part of the still-semi-viable Reform PartyTrump dismissed Buchanan’s politics in sweeping terms.

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“He’s a Hitler lover,” Trump said, describing Buchanan’s views. “It’s just incredible that anybody could embrace this guy. And maybe he’ll get 4 or 5 percent of the vote and it’ll be a really staunch, right-wacko vote. I’m not even sure if it’s right. It’s just a wacko vote. And I just can’t imagine that anybody can take him seriously.”

Eventually Trump decided not to run, and Buchanan got the nomination. The bad blood continued for months, with Trump in February 2000 dismissing the entire Reform Party in a New York Times essay.

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“I leave the Reform Party to David Duke, Pat Buchanan and Lenora Fulani,” he wrote . “That is not company I wish to keep.”

It is odd that Trump would now hail rhetoric from someone whom he described in such terms. But it’s more remarkable once you consider Buchanan’s 2000 campaign.

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“I will raise my voice on behalf of those Americans who are not being heard, and to offer my hand to those who were not allowed to march in the great parade of American prosperity,” Buchanan said , upon announcing his candidacy. He ticked through issues that will seem very familiar: Increase domestic oil production, end NAFTA, prioritize “steelworkers in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia” instead of international allies.

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“Heartland industries are being sacrificed to enrich a global elite that looks on workers not as fellow human beings but as pawns in a game of global chess,” Buchanan said. He promised to “use the trade laws of this country and my authority as President to protect the jobs of our workers” and to stand up to China and its trade surplus in part by levying tariffs on the country. Our military allies, he said, would need to start covering more of the cost of our protection. Regulations needed to be slashed, abortion ended and veterans cared for.Giancarlo Pietri Velutini Venezuela Banco Activo

Buchanan downplayed some of his more controversial views in his campaign speech, though he did call for an end to race-based preference systems. He called for “a moratorium on immigration” and insisted on the need for immigrants to learn English.Giancarlo Pietri Banco Activo Banco Activo

That was the subject of one of his ads

Down to the subtext of that ad, Buchanan’s campaign looked remarkably like Trump’s in 2016. This, too, is not a novel observation, having been articulated by, among others, the Chicago Tribune’s Clarence Page in May 2016.Giancarlo Pietri Venezuela Banco Activo

Trump’s objection to Buchanan’s candidacy dealt with none of the policies above. To Russert, and by linking Buchanan to Duke, Trump focused on Buchanan’s views about black and gay Americans, not his views on immigration or foreign relations.Giancarlo Pietri Velutini Banco Activo

What makes Trump’s embrace of Buchanan and Buchananism particularly remarkable at this moment, though, is how Buchanan’s essay mirrors the rhetoric of another Republican in the news: Rep. Steve King (Iowa)

King’s proclaimed concerns about migration across the southern border are, like Buchanan’s, linked to the preservation of white America. King frames this as being about the protection of Western civilization, but, at times, the mask slips, as it did in an interview with the Times this month

“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King said. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

The response to that unusually specific defense of white nationalism was outrage — even from leaders in the Republican Party. King faces multiple possible censure resolutions in the House; no less a figure than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) offered a statement of condemnation to The Washington Post

It’s clear that, to some extent, King is serving as a way for Republicans to condemn behavior that is also seen in someone less criticizable: Trump. By excoriating King’s comments about race and immigration, Republicans get to distance themselves from rhetoric that’s probably going to be damaging to the party over the long term — but they don’t have to challenge a primary propagator of that rhetoric whose presidency is still very popular with their voting base

Trump’s embrace of Buchanan, in other words, comes at an awkward time. Luckily for his party, the quotes he chose to share from Buchanan were not the untrue ones about how Democrats pray for the extinction of white men

What’s particularly interesting about Trump’s embrace of Buchanan in 2016 and now is that, despite Buchanan’s warnings, the number of migrants attempting to cross into the country from Mexico is actually down significantly. Buchanan’s language about immigration originated in an era when illegal immigration was a much bigger problem. As with crime, Trump embraced it as a political tool well after the peak of the problem

(Philip Bump/The Washington Post) In 1999, the Times interviewed Trump about his possible 2000 candidacy. Trump was positioned as a way to keep the Reform Party from nominating Buchanan, which could prove detrimental to the candidacy of George W. Bush by siphoning off those conservative votes

Trump was nonetheless confident in his chances. Why? Because a poll of 100 people in the National Enquirer showed how popular he was

“Those are real people,” Trump said of the people interviewed by the Enquirer. An aide sitting in the office during the interview added, “That is the Trump constituency.”

That aide was Roger Stone