The big secret of the 2016 election? Trump ran on Patrick Buchanan’s platform

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tags: Trump, Patrick Buchanan




Of everybody all over the world who watched the presidential campaign of Donald Trump last year, I think it's possible that the person who had the eeriest experience of it was Pat Buchanan, because he watched Trump sweep into office championing the same set of ideas that Buchanan ran for president with and lost with three different times-- 1992, '96, and 2000. Buchanan is probably best known for a speech that he gave at the 1992 Republican Convention that defined the party and him for a while, decrying that our country was in the middle of a cultural war with homosexuals, abortion, pornography, and radical feminism on one side, and Judeo-Christian values and Republicans on the other.

But his presidential campaigns were about more than that. Here he is in 1996.

Pat Buchanan

We had one year of NAFTA. After one year, 300,000 jobs are gone. In addition to that, Illegal immigration is soaring, narcotics pouring in.

Ira Glass

He's got Trump's whole agenda. Buchanan wanted to quit trade deals like NAFTA, stop companies from relocating factories overseas, get tough on immigration, phase out foreign aid, make our European allies pay for their own defense, build a wall on the Mexico border, stay out of foreign wars, recapture Washington from the moneyed political class and make it serve the forgotten middle class. And his slogan? You ready for this? America First.

Pat Buchanan

So today we call for a new patriotism where Americans begin to put the needs of Americans first, for a new nationalism--

 Ira Glass

So that "America first" passage, do you recognize what speech that was?

 Pat Buchanan

It sounds like an announcement speech in New Hampshire, '92 or '96.

 Ira Glass

It was his first presidential announcement in '92 in Concord. Producer Zoe Chace and I talked to him in his home in McLean, Virginia-- right next to the CIA, he told us. And it was pretty close. A house with white columns and a living room full of political souvenirs.

 Pat Buchanan

See over there, that piece of glazed glass there?

 Ira Glass

A red, white, and blue stained glass windowpane was on the coffee table in the living room with his old slogan on it.

 Pat Buchanan

"America First, 1992".

 Ira Glass

A painting of Buchanan on the campaign bus in Iowa was above the fireplace. Photos of him traveling with Richard Nixon to China, when he was one of Nixon's closest advisers and strategists. A photo of him in a huddle with Ronald Reagan, back when he was in the inner circle of that White House. He was communications director. In the picture, they're going through a speech that he'd hastily rewritten after the Reykjavik arms talks ended badly.

 Pat Buchanan

And I had these cards. Put this card here, sir, and this card there. And we were trying to figure it out.

 Ira Glass

Back when Ronald Reagan became president, it was widely acknowledged that the ideas that he had run on had been championed by Barry Goldwater when he ran and lost 16 years before that.

Donald Trump ran 16 years after Buchanan's final campaign. And for months now, Zoe and I have wondered why, except for an article here or there, Buchanan wasn't getting more credit. He told us, yeah, of course he noticed. It was his old platform right from the first day Trump announced.

 Pat Buchanan

When he came down the escalator and he began talking about the trade deficits, he began talking about border security, about building a wall on the border. There was a Buchanan fence. It was economic nationalism or economic patriotism.

 Zoe Chace

And so did you think like, hey, there it is? Or were you like hey, that's mine?

 Pat Buchanan

Well, did you recognize it? Sure you did. When he says "America first," people were calling up. And so I was elated. I was all for Trump. And I come from a big family, nieces and nephews, and I got [INAUDIBLE] Uncle Pat is as happy as a p-- [LAUGHING] Uncle Pat is as happy as he could be watching what's going on. I mean, he really raised and elevated these issues.

 Ira Glass

So you're not feeling overlooked?

 Pat Buchanan

No, not at all. I'm delighted. [LAUGHING]

 Zoe Chace

This is my last try with this "aren't you mad you didn't get credit?" question. When people talk about Trumpism, do you think like, hey, that's really Buchananism? Does that ever happen?

 Pat Buchanan

No. Look, he won. He won. [LAUGHING]

 Ira Glass

Why do you think he was able to win on a platform so close to yours? What's changed?

 Pat Buchanan

What's changed is, instead of 3 or 4 million illegals in the country, you had 11 and 1/2 million. They're in every city and town of America, and everybody suddenly realizes it. So it's now the disaster of these policies, the returns are in. When you lose a third of your manufacturing-- the greatest manufacturing power in the history of man-- everybody knows it. You can point to the reality-- you can point to the reality. You don't have to say this is what's going to happen if you do this. What we predicted came to pass.

 Ira Glass

So it's partly the issues. When he ran, Buchanan said the issues hadn't matured. But he readily acknowledged that Donald Trump was a special candidate and had all kinds of assets as a candidate that he hadn't had. Lots of money. He was better known. Buchanan mentioned Trump's plane a few times. Apparently, when you run for president, having your own airplane is very, very helpful.

Buchanan is an accomplished speechwriter and has written some famous presidential addresses that are careful and substantive and reach for grand themes. And I thought maybe Trump's off-the-cuff, not-deeply-informed-on-the-issues speaking style would be repellent to him, but he said no. He admires the spontaneity. The catchphrases.

 Pat Buchanan

Like, "and Mexico's going to pay for it." It was a very effective speech. And it's riveting, and it's very interesting and entertaining. He's a great candidate. There's no question about it.

 Zoe Chace

When you were talking about seeing Trump's announcement coming down the escalator--

 Pat Buchanan

Mhm.

 Zoe Chace

When he talked about Mexican rapists, what was your reaction to that?

 Pat Buchanan

It was jolting. But it was-- you said that-- look, this is a guy that's not been sandpapered in politics. And it's raw. People have different assets. And he's got the ones that are-- from never having been in politics, it's got a real freshness to it.

 Ira Glass

But did you have moments where you were just like, ooh, don't do that?

 Pat Buchanan

Look, very early on, you caught on. And my feeling was, look, this is the last chance for the ideas that I advocated and championed, and they've matured, these issues have, and he's the sole individual that's carrying them, and this may be the last chance for them, so I'm going to cut him an awful lot of slack. He's, culturally and socially, a different kind of guy than I am, but I'm for him, and so I'm going to stick with him right to the end. And this is the last chance. And it is a chance. It's a long shot, but it is a chance.

 Ira Glass

When Buchanan says it's the last chance for these ideas, what he means is the country's problems have gotten so bad. So many jobs have gone overseas. So many factories have closed. And so many immigrants have already arrived. He's against that. In a number of books, he's written with alarm about America becoming a less white, more diverse country. "We are so divided already," he says, "and this divides us more."

There's another one of his ideas that's come back in the age of Trump, championed by Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions and a world of radio talk shows and websites and Breitbart News. This idea that immigrants are destroying our country's Judeo-Christian values because they don't assimilate because of multiculturalism.

 Pat Buchanan

As I say, if you go back to 1960, the melting pot worked. The melting pot stopped working.

 Ira Glass

I don't know. When it comes to this country, when you make the argument of, whoa, our country was better off when we were majority white and Judeo-Christian?

 Pat Buchanan

I think majority European, right.

 Ira Glass

And why is it better? Just lay out the case. Why is that better?

 Pat Buchanan

Well, maybe it's preference. I feel more comfortable. I'm a homeboy, and I feel more comfortable with the folks you grew up with.

 Ira Glass

I don't know. I mean, I say with respect, the people who I meet who are supposedly so different, they just never seem that different to me. They really don't. They seem very American to me.

 Pat Buchanan

So he's a Davos guy. [LAUGHING]

 Ira Glass

No, don't have the money for that, sir. Definitely not.

Davos-- that's the place in Switzerland where millionaires elites meet once a year supposedly to plot their globalist, free trade, one world, no borders, George Soros, Bono agenda. In this living room, that is a big diss.

The other problem from Buchanan's perspective, with the country becoming less white, is political. Buchanan's been a serious student of political demographics. He's one of the people who rose from the ashes of Goldwater's defeat in 1964 and figured out a new combination of demographic groups that could propel Richard Nixon into the White House in 1968.

And when he looks at the demographics today, he considers the possibility of more Latinos and other immigrants becoming part of the electorate. He agrees with the Republicans that you've heard this hour who believe that that does not look good for their party.

 Pat Buchanan

North Carolina is shifting. Georgia is shifting demographically. The American Southwest is shifting. The Hispanic vote is growing. It's going to be almost impossible to win. Trump won, but he lost by 3 million votes. And 80,000 votes the other way and we'd still be talking about the eternal lock the Democratic Party's got on the presidency. In other words, they have a problem, the Republican Party. It's far harder for me to solve than the one I saw after Barry Goldwater. You could see the path-- the path up the mountainside there. I don't see it now.

 Ira Glass

There's another way that Trump represents the last chance for Buchanan's ideas. If the Republican Party does not attract more nonwhite voters, it's hard to see how they're going to continue to win the White House. And this something really interesting about where Republicans are right now, even in this moment of triumph they're having, where they have the White House and both houses of Congress and so many state houses and governor's mansions around the country.

When they look at the future, they're still looking down the barrel of the same dilemma they had in 2014, back at the beginning of now. The party is still wrestling with the same issue that got Eric Cantor knocked out of office. They have to choose between two policies, neither of which seems like it solves their national political problems. If they stay tough on immigration, they think they'll kiss off most of the Latino vote, which will doom them. Though, if they provide a path to citizenship, they believe those new Latino voters mostly will be Democrats, and that'll doom them.

 Ira Glass

So what do you think the Republican Party should do? Should they try to reach out beyond the white vote that they have?

 Pat Buchanan

I think economic nationalism is the future-- the kind of appeal Trump made to nationalism-- America first.

 Ira Glass

To be clear, he's saying, do everything you can to keep jobs in the US. Quit trade deals like NAFTA. Impose tariffs on imported goods. And if that boosts the economy, it's going to help everybody and appeal not just to white people, but voters of all races who might decide then to vote Republican. It's not white nationalism, he says.

 Pat Buchanan

You can't have white nationalists if they're diminishing as a share of the population. It's American nationalism. The one winning hand the Republicans have, I think, is going to be American nationalism.

 Ira Glass

If that works, it's basically more Trumpism, more Buchananism going forward into the future. Though, Buchanan, he's the first to admit, is a pessimist. This really might not work, he says. The demographic problems the party's facing are so profound. And if this doesn't work, the now that we're in right now-- the whole "Donald Trump, America first, reject the rest of the world, wall up the borders" America-- that will not be the future, for the country or the party. It'll just be a blip.

Pat Buchanan's newest book, by the way, is history that he participated in himself. It's called Nixon's White House Wars-- The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever. It comes out in a week.

Let's close out today with one last clip. This is the night before the 1996 Republican Convention in San Diego. The candidate's telling the crowd that, even though he didn't win the Republican nomination, his ideas about America first, they still had a future.

 Pat Buchanan

Before our eyes and before their eyes, this party is becoming a Buchanan Party. The old era is over. The old order--

[APPLAUDING WILDLY]

The old order is passing away. But within this party, a new party is being born. God willing, God willing, we will be there at its birth, and one day, the stone the builders rejected shall become the cornerstone.




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