For those old enough to remember national politics back in the 1990’s, the presidential campaign of Donald Trump should have sounded very familiar. That’s because we had heard it all before.
America First. Republican populism. Opposition to NAFTA. The American worker and lost manufacturing jobs. A Pro-Life message supportive of our traditional Judeo-Christian values.
The 1992 & 1996 primary challenges by columnist, commentator, and one time presidential speech writer Patrick J. Buchanan were the beginning of a 25 year Republican revolution. The election of Donald J. Trump was the culmination of this movement; the victory of nationalism and populism over economic globalism and neoconservatism.
In his 1996 victory speech following a surprise win over Senator Bob Dole in the New Hampshire primary, candidate Buchanan touched upon the very issues and themes that would define the Trump campaign 20 years later:
“Friends, this is not a victory for a man. Again, this a victory for cause. It is the cause of a brand new bold conservatism in American politics; conservatism that gives voice to the voiceless…
“A conservatism, the conservatism that looks out for the men and women of this country whose jobs have been sacrificed on the altars of trade deals done for the benefit of trans-national corporations who have no loyalty to our country, and no loyalty to anybody.
“This is a victory, a victory for the good men and women of middle America who cannot understand why there is deafness in Washington and silence about the fact the standard of living of our working men and women in middle class have been stagnating, while profits have been soaring. They call me names, somebody tonight called me a socialist, they call me “the right,” they can’t figure out where we are: right, left, new deal, where is that fellow?
“This new conservatism this is dedicated, this new conservatism is committed to many things, and one thing we’re going to do, we’re going out and after GATT and NAFTA, and we’re going to recapture the lost sovereignty of our country, and we’re going to bring it home…
“We speak, we speak for a new generation of Americans, a new generation which is about to take office and assume the leadership of this country, which it does not apologize for the fact that we will defend America’s borders. We do not apologize for the fact that we’re going to take control of our own national destiny, and we do not apologize for the fact that never again will young Americans be put under U.N. command.”
Fast forward to July 2014 when Pat Buchanan championed his brand of populism and nationalism as THE WAY to defeat Hillary Clinton in the upcoming election. Nearly a full year before Trump entered the race, Buchanan told Salon what type of candidate could win in 2016:
“I believe a lot of the ideas I ran on [for president] in the ’90s like nonintervention in foreign wars that are none of our business, securing the borders, which I argued for 25 years ago, and stopping the export of U.S. manufacturing jobs to China and Asia. All these things are now current and much stronger than they were then. I think you need a fighting, populist, conservative campaign aimed at the working and middle class where you tell some of the Fortune 500 folks that you guys are going to have to spend a little time in the back row.”
The entire point of this retrospection is to make clear that which should be obvious, but apparently still isn’t to many: the Trump political movement isn’t an anomaly. And as much as the Trump name brand and fame clearly helped the New York billionaire overcome obstacles that would have sunk most other candidates, it was his Buchananesque populism and old fashioned nationalism that won the day. It’s also obvious that after nearly three decades of economic globalism and international conflict championed by both major parties, the country has finally caught up to Pat Buchanan.
The prominent role of Breitbart’s Stephen K. Bannon as the new administration’s chief strategist promises that this reinvention of the Republican Party will continue. As Bannon recently told The Hollywood Reporter:
“Like [Andrew] Jackson’s populism, we’re going to build an entirely new political movement,” he says. “It’s everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy. I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Ship yards, iron works, get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.”
The next four years promise to be a wild ride. I would suggest that you continue to listen to Buchanan -the prophet, the godfather of this movement- and buckle up. After 25 years in the making, the revolution is here. The moment is now.