Like many other Republicans, I was not sorry to see Pat Buchanan leave the Republican fold and go for the Reform Party gold. For years, Buchanan has pushed agendas - tribalist, protectionist, isolationist - that one associates with the old America First movement (whose slogan he has actually revived).
America Firsters felt that the Axis powers were not really our enemy (a thesis Buchanan has recently rehashed) and that the salvation of America depended on the preservation of its Anglo-Saxon complexion. It is the face of what some have called an American fascism. Whether it merits such grave concern is a debatable question. America is not the Weimar Republic and Pat Buchanan is no Fuehrer.
Pat's lonely departure is a sign of the health of the Republican Party, its commitment to democratic aspirations, ethnic inclusion and old-style liberal values. It is striking that no one has followed him out of the party -- not a Republican senator (not even Bob Smith), not a congressman, not a single local elected official. I didn't see much commentary on this in the national media, but then much of the media has an ideological stake in the demonic aura it has helped to create around Republicans in order to keep the left in power.
Despite Republicans' disdain for much of what Buchanan and his followers believe, the departure is necessarily a mixed omen. Although Buchanan's constituency has been shrinking of late, there is no doubt that it is significant. If he is able to secure the Reform Party nomination, he will acquire $13 million in taxpayer funds courtesy of the delusional efforts of the campaign finance reformers.
With this artificially created war chest, it is possible that he might pull enough votes to jeopardize Republican hopes in 2000 and create the prospect of a Democratic victory. If this victory were to produce a Democratic Congress and a leftist Supreme Court, it would be a cure worse for the nation than the Buchanan malady has already been for the Republican Party.
For it is among Democrats that we find an even larger caucus for the kind of politics that Buchanan represents on the right end of the political spectrum. This recognition will come as a hard pill to many in the Democratic coalition who think of themselves as "progressive."
But the corporatist economics (Hillary's health plan), protectionist prejudices (socialist diehards, government unions) and racial politics of the Democratic left add up to an anti-libertarian, anti-democratic, anti-pluralistic dose at least as lethal as that of the Buchanan brigade. (If the idea still seems indigestible, think of Buchanan's newfound Reform comrade, Lenora Fulani, who has spent her political life as a totalitarian cultist in the progressive left.)
The left-wing caucus in the Democratic Party is more protected than its Republican cousin and consequently even more aggressive. The lopsided bias of the nation's media guarantees that a left-wing fanatic and all-weather race-hater like Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., will have few restraints on her poison tongue.
Who is going to call the former head of the Black Caucus to task for spreading conspiracy theories about the CIA seeding the crack epidemic in America's inner cities? Waters, of course, lacks the innate good manners that have made Buchanan an effective combatant in the political wars and the potential leader of a third party. For this reason alone a Waters presidential candidacy would be, well, risible.
On the other hand, Waters and her political soul mates constitute a formidable force inside the Democrat coalition (powerful enough to be called on by an impeached and disgraced president to pull his chestnuts out of the fire).
Because the racial demagoguery of Democrats like Waters is given free rein by a friendly media, it has spread through the ranks of the party right up to its leadership levels.
Whereas Republicans are ashamed when publicly called on their use of the race card, Democrats have converted that same card into a usable political currency.
Is there a minority candidate so biased, so incompetent or so corrupt that he or she should not be appointed to a federal judgeship or an ambassadorial post? To listen to President Clinton and Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., these days, only a racist would think so.
Clinton and Daschle, of course, are too sophisticated to use terms like "racist" to describe the whole Republican Party. Instead they use crafty phrases like the one Daschle employed when Republicans recently rejected a Clinton nominee: "The array of anti-minority sentiment expressed almost each week now by Republicans is historic."
But Maxine Waters and her colleague Rep. William Clay, D-Mo., -- who once described Gary Franks as a "negro Kevorkian" (on the grounds that he was a card-carrying Republican) -- are not so subtle. Recently, both of them absurdly labeled Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo., a racist because he thought the same judicial nominee, a black Democrat named Ronnie White, was too soft on crime.
The Democratic Party of Clinton and Daschle is not yet the party of Waters and Clay. Despite the pressures of its trade union reactionaries, it is still a party that supports free trade. Despite the racialism of its leftist core, it still acknowledges the need to mend the policy of government discrimination (while continuing to sponsor it behind the mask of "affirmative action").
But the balance of Democrats on issues that would reshape our political landscape in ominous directions is even less stable than it is among Republicans. Despite reluctant concessions to fiscal conservatism and welfare reform by "Democrats for sensible change," the party still clings to the political legacies of the bankrupt past. This is the party of ever expanding government power, of redistributionist agendas taken out of the book of socialist failure and of puritanical extremism in every area but sex (tobacco, guns, Hollywood "violence," SUVs). It is also the party of ever more cynical racial polarization.
Recently, its racial McCarthyism has shown signs of veering seriously out of control. Democrats are now employing the strategy of the racial witch hunt not only in congressional conflicts, but in local disputes, with calamitous consequences for the communities involved. In Los Angeles, for example, Democrats have marshaled forces in the Hispanic community to prevent the removal of an Hispanic superintendent of schools on the grounds it is a racial assault aimed at Hispanics.
But Ruben Zacarias rose to his position during a 17-year career as a lackluster bureaucrat in a system from which 47 percent of the children (two-thirds of whom are Hispanic) never graduate. A disgraceful percentage of those who do, moreover, never achieve more than functional illiteracy. If Zacarias were a white Republican, these same Democrats would be decrying the "institutional racism" of schools that produced these results, and would hold his tenure up as a prime example of the oppression of minorities by insensitive whites.
As it happens, the effort to remove Zacarias is being led by a black leftist, Genethia Hayes, who was formerly head of the Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and has had second thoughts about the politically correct policies that led to this mess. Her election, along with a reform-slate majority, was spearheaded by Los Angeles' Republican mayor, Richard Riordan, and by former Clinton pollster Bill Carrick.
Not coincidentally, the same scenario is being acted out in New York. Herman Badillo, who was the first Puerto Rican borough president and a perennial mayoral candidate of the progressive left, is being tarred and feathered by his former colleagues as a "racist" and "traitor" to his community. For several years such charges were leveled at him by Democrats and "progressives" outraged at his efforts to reform City College (whose board he chairs) and reestablish its academic standards so that the minorities who attend can get a decent education. One city councilwoman even accused him of "ethnic cleansing" because he wanted to remove remedial courses from the college curriculum.
Recently, he provoked another firestorm by observing that immigrants from rural Mexico and Central America, who have never learned to read in any language, may need special programs if they are to learn to read and write in English. Badillo's remarks on this subject were called "blood curdling" by the head of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund, an entity funded by the Ford Foundation and entrenched in "progressive" political causes. Last year, convinced by such racially heated attacks that the left was firmly committed to reactionary agendas, Badillo became Republican.
It is anybody's guess who will win the 2000 elections or which way the Democrat Party will go under the leadership of Bradley or Gore. It is anyone's guess which direction the realignment now taking place in American politics will lead us. But at this point in time, and in this election, it is a pretty sure bet that the stakes will be higher than they have been for a very long while.