The storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1879



by Ben Domenech


20 January 16

{ I have never been a fan of Pat Buchanan, although I have long admired his passionate zeal to translate into political action the social justice teaching of the popes from Leo XIII all the way to Saint John Paul II. His eagerness to storm the Bastille of liberal Washington politics, but he was just too much of a pitchfork radical (as Ben Domenech describes him here) for me.  I remember my final break with him occurred during the Rose Dinner following the annual March for Life in Washington (I believe it was in 1988) when seated next to each other at the head table he launched into a xenophobic attack on immigration into the United States.  Being the son of a Mexican father who was forced to flee Mexico in 1915 because of the persecution of the Church in Oaxaca, I naturally reacted strongly against his xenophobia.  It was the last time we spoke. }

It is no exaggeration on my part to say that the most influential living politician in my understanding of American politics is Pat Buchanan. I grew up in the poor corner of a great Southern city, with parents external to the political fray, watching The McLaughlin Group – which is still on the air today, believe it or not.  We had, as youngsters, strong opinions regarding Fred “The Beatle” Barnes and Morton Kondracke. But it was Pat Buchanan, the former Richard Nixon adviser, who held our attention the most – not in agreement necessarily, but because of the power of his populist arguments. He decried a system bereft of representation, fraught with cronyism and corruption, and applauded an America ready for a populist revolution that would upset every assumed normalcy of Washington.  { I agree with Domenech in his characterization of Buchanan on the TV weekly program The McLaughlin Group.  I was a regular watcher of the program just as I am now a regular watcher of The Special Report of Bret Baier on Fox}  The 1992 convention’s culture war speech and the 1996 race were formative moments for my appreciation of Buchanan’s impact, and we understood him as representative of more than just a branch of American punditry, and saw him as a populist of the sort that extended from Andrew Jackson to Ross Perot. When one of the writers who I admired most – and still do – Ramesh Ponnuru, wrote him out of the conservative movement in National Review in a definitive fashion in 1999, it was a moment of sorrow in acknowledging how far someone who my family had seen as a lodestar of politics had drifted from conservative ideology into something different.

The 2016 election seems, in more ways than one, to be the revenge of Pitchfork Pat and the revolutionaries of 1992 and 1996. I have been asking him to come on the radio show for almost a year, always rebuffed. Michael Brendan Dougherty yesterday wrote about how Sam Francis, an obscure adviser to Buchanan, predicted the Trump campaign in 1996.  I asked Buchanan via email about it, and he responded: “Sam Francis was a brilliant man, a courageous intellectual, a close friend, and Michael Brendan Dougherty has written an excellent summation of Sam’s views back in 1996. And Sam and I did disagree on how I should campaign.” But he still passed on the interview.

Pat Buchanan, Catholic populist, is not a representative of my personal views – I’m a pro-life libertarian {Domenech self description describes me as well}, which means we likely only agree on guns, liquor, and abortion. But he is representative of a branch of populist American nationalism that is still very potent. I still believe there was an opportunity in the wake of the Tea Party movement to glom together a branch of Buchananism, of libertarianism, and of Constitutional conservatism into a coherent movement that would speak to this branch of 50%+ of Republican and Republican leaning voters who today support Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in a way that would change the normal framework of politics and establish a new national coalition of the right. Instead, we got the Mitch McConnell Senate management and the impotence of national Republicanism. So today we have Sarah Palin endorsing Donald Trump. And a natural outcome of putting personality before politics.

We have been given a 2016 circus the Republican Party and the DC establishment has made. Donald Trump is normalizing and mainstreaming F-you politics – the same phenomenon that is driving Bernie Sanders, too. The expression of the voter in 2016 is: “Why pretend that we give a s—t when the ruling class doesn’t give a s—t about us?” As Tim Carney has put it: they could have become the party of {Pat} Toomeys and {Mike} Lees and refused; then they had a choice to be a party of {Ted} Cruzes and refused again; now it’s Trump and they may not have a choice. In the parlance of Fallout, the Republicans have turned ghoul – but they may or may not be feral. They have overestimated the principled conservatism of the base.  And now their voters are coming {with Trump and Sanders leading them} to eat them, pitchforks in hand, just as Pat predicted.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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