The Great Refusal
The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization, by Patrick Buchanan, St. Martin’s Press, 2002. 308 pp.
Since 1998, Patrick J. Buchanan has been writing a series of books dealing in depth with the major themes and issues of both his newspaper column and his seemingly perennial presidential campaigns. The first, The Great Betrayal, dealt with the problems of “free trade” and “economic nationalism”; the second, A Republic, Not an Empire, with foreign policy in the post-Cold War era, especially with the alternatives of “global interventionism” and what Mr. Buchanan called an “enlightened nationalism” that avoids needless overseas entanglements. Both books are of interest to AR readers, but the third and most recent, The Death of the West, should be especially so, since it is mainly in this volume that Mr. Buchanan deals with the issues that most AR readers believe are by far the most important our nation and race are facing.
It is Mr. Buchanan’s thesis that the West—the white, Christian cultures of Europe and America—is facing extinction, in part because of falling birthrates, in part because of massive immigration by non-Western peoples who fail or refuse to assimilate, and in part because of the crisis of belief in Western culture that Western elites harbor and spread. Mr. Buchanan does suggest some practical political and policy options by which the Western nations could reduce the threats they face, but by and large he offers little hope for survival.
The Death of the West should be of particular interest to AR readers not only because so many of the “cultural” issues with which the book deals are really racial issues, but also because of confusion among Mr. Buchanan’s many admirers and supporters about his own personal view of race. Throughout his presidential campaigns, many supporters expressed disappointment that he did not more frequently and consistently raise explicitly racial issues—especially immigration and affirmative action—and faulted him for dwelling on more conventional conservative topics. The disappointment reached a crescendo in August, 2000, when Mr. Buchanan as the presidential nominee of the Reform Party chose as his running mate a black woman, Ezola Foster. Not only was Mrs. Foster obviously unprepared to serve as either a credible vice-presidential candidate or as an actual vice-president—she worked as a typing teacher in a public high school, had never held public office, and soon turned out to carry questionable ethical baggage—but also she had, equally obviously, been selected precisely because of her race. That Pat Buchanan would stoop to this sort of racial pandering dashed the hopes and expectations of many of his racially conscious supporters. More substantially, however, Mrs. Foster’s selection also appeared to be in gross contradiction to many of Mr. Buchanan’s own statements over the years that had suggested he shared the view held by most AR readers: that race is a natural and socially significant reality.
The Death of the West, then, could have served as an excellent opportunity for Mr. Buchanan to clarify his own views of race and the relationship between race and civilization. Alas, although Mr. Buchanan confronts many of the most controversial issues of our time with his customary courage and brilliance, and although the issue of race runs surreptitiously throughout the book, at its end the reader will remain as mystified about what the author thinks about it as he was at the beginning.
The major theme of the early part of the book is the declining birthrates that afflict the white populations of the United States and Europe. “The West,” Mr. Buchanan writes, “is dying:”
Its nations have ceased to reproduce, and their populations have stopped growing and begun to shrink. Not since the Black Death carried off a third of Europe in the fourteenth century has there been a graver threat to the survival of Western civilization. Today, in seventeen European countries, there are more burials than births, more coffins than cradles.
The result is not only that the populations of the West are dwindling but that as they cease to bear children, they will grow increasingly older and more burdensome to the remaining young people who will have to care for them directly or through higher taxes. The alternative is the mass immigration from the Third World that is actually taking place; only immigrants can replace dying populations and assume the burdens that the population’s unborn children will not bear. “Either Europe raises taxes and radically downsizes pensions and health benefits for the elderly, or Europe becomes a Third World continent. There is no third way,” Mr. Buchanan writes.
Nevertheless, at least in the case of race, it is not at all clear that he knows that it’s race with which he’s dealing, or that he grasps why he should be on one side rather than another.
The population decline is for Mr. Buchanan the major indicator of cultural decline, and toward the end of the book he traces it to the decline of religion, specifically Christianity.
“But, as Christianity began to die in the West, something else occurred: Western peoples began to stop having children. For the correlation between religious faith and large families is absolute. The more devout a people, whether Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, the higher its birthrate.
Mr. Buchanan fails to support this claim adequately. He complains about and indeed documents what he calls the “deChristianization” of American society, but he also insists, largely correctly, that the decline of Christianity in the United States is mainly the result of what elites have imposed on the country, and he acknowledges that “while America remains a predominantly Christian society and country, her public institutions and popular culture have been thoroughly de-Christianized.” Yet the white birth rate in the United States is 1.85, below replacement level (2.1), while black and Hispanic birthrates are above replacement level (2.21 and 2.99 respectively; it’s interesting that Mr. Buchanan nowhere in the book ever mentions these racial differences in fertility). The implication should be clear: America remains, for most of its population, a Christian country, but the racial group that constitutes most of its population is failing to reproduce itself; it is therefore not the decline of Christianity that accounts for the decline of births—unless Mr. Buchanan wants to argue that blacks and Hispanics are more religious than whites and have more children for that reason.
Moreover, while in the later parts of the book Mr. Buchanan mainly invokes the decline of religion as a cause of the birth dearth, in the early chapters he enumerates several other causes: a socialistic political economy in which government takes care of the elderly, and the young are no longer expected to do so; an economy in which women are expected to work and must work if they and their families are to enjoy middle-class affluence; the cultural revolution of the 1960s and the accompanying transformation of sexual mores and the rise of feminism; what Mr. Buchanan calls the “hysteria” about over-population fostered by ecologists and population planners; the availability of contraceptives; and finally the “collapse of the moral order” that is largely indistinguishable from the aforesaid cultural and sexual revolutions.
Most of these are perfectly plausible explanations of why people choose not to have children, and they more or less apply to non-Western countries like Japan as well. But probably the major reason people don’t have children is the one that several people Mr. Buchanan quotes actually assert: people have a choice between bearing the considerable costs of rearing children, or of not having them at all and spending their money on themselves. It is, in other words, availability of contraceptives and the ideological changes that accompany affluence that account most plausibly for the decline of white fertility. The decline of religion may mask affluence as a cause of declining fertility because affluence tends to be correlated with secularization, modernization, and the whole range of other causes to which Mr. Buchanan points.
Whatever its cause, Mr. Buchanan is entirely correct that the prospect of the disappearance of white populations foretells the death of the civilization they created. He is even more correct than he realizes, because he never bothers to deal with a perfectly logical question that arises from his survey of the decline of fertility among Europeans and the mass immigration of non-Westerners: Why don’t the non-Westerners become Western through cultural assimilation and carry on the civilization? If that were to happen, why would it really matter that the white population is vanishing?
If, as Mr. Buchanan argues, “Christianity gave birth to the West and undergirds its moral and political order,” and if a large proportion of the Third World immigrants entering the United States are Hispanic Christians, why is immigration a problem for the West rather than its salvation? Why won’t Christian immigrants ignite a Western renaissance? What would Mr. Buchanan say to an educated, upper-middle class, professional non-white immigrant, who may even have converted to Christianity, who tells him, “So what if the white people of the West are disappearing? I and millions like me are coming into this country, and we’ve assimilated or will assimilate, so we’ll carry on the civilization your ancestors founded.” The answer can only be that there is some other factor than religion or simple cultural assimilation—adopting the language, dress, and mores of the host country—that defines the West, and that factor is the Great Unmentionable: race.
Mr. Buchanan is aware of race and the difference it makes. He offers several reasons why massive immigration from Mexico is such a cultural problem for America, and one reason is that “Mexicans not only come from another culture, but millions are of another race. History and experience teach us that different races are far more difficult to assimilate. The sixty million Americans who claim German ancestry are fully assimilated, while millions from Africa and Asia are still not full participants in American society.”
To be fair, then, Mr. Buchanan does acknowledge that race is of some significance. Nor does he shrink from blasting the enemies of the Confederate flag (white or black, Republican or Democrat), rehearsing the facts about race and crime (and favorably citing both Jared Taylor and the New Century Foundation’s study, The Color of Crime), and quoting with contempt the blatantly anti-white shriekings of such racial demagogues as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Mario Obledo. Mr. Buchanan is clearly on the side of his own race, as well as that of his own faith and nation and civilization.
Nevertheless, at least in the case of race, it is not at all clear that he knows that it’s race with which he’s dealing, or that he grasps why he should be on one side rather than another. He never explains why race is significant or why it is that “different races are far more difficult to assimilate”—is it due to the biology of race or simply that racial differences are more visible than most cultural differences?—nor does he seem quite to grasp that the West and America are, virtually by definition, white. Even if some non-whites do adopt the cultural trappings of the West and even if they share the same cognitive abilities as whites, they will always remain aliens because of their race. “Assimilation,” while perhaps better than non-assimilation and the kind of cultural hatred that many immigrants exhibit toward the West, in the end is not really what’s important, because race is the ultimate foundation of culture. This is the crucial insight that escapes Mr. Buchanan.
Indeed, as he recounts the many different controversies over issues like the Confederate flag, the removal of various national or racial or religious monuments, the re-writing of history, and the long march of “political correctness” through the institutions, the reader begins to notice that he seldom if ever really engages with his enemies. One gets the impression that Mr. Buchanan is writing his book almost entirely for a 60-year-old white, Southern, Roman Catholic—a reader who can be expected to share his beliefs and values and his outrage at witnessing them being spat upon by racial, religious, and national foes, while the cowards, frauds, and fools among the conservatives and Republicans who are supposed to defend them fail to do so. But hardly anywhere in the book does Mr. Buchanan offer a principled, informed defense of any of his beliefs and values. He writes very little that might persuade an opponent who does not share his assumptions, or who might attack his beliefs and values as “racism,” “xenophobia,” “chauvinism,” etc.
Nor does Mr. Buchanan ever offer a very convincing explanation as to why the West is in decline. The decline of religion is at best only a partial explanation. Why has religion declined? Why can’t Christianity resurrect itself, or why doesn’t some other religion replace it if Christianity is failing to serve basic needs? Mr. Buchanan places great emphasis on the role of elites—the long campaign of Marxist-Freudian subversion sponsored by the Frankfurt School and its disciples, the justices of the Supreme Court, the elites of Hollywood and other cultural centers. He is undoubtedly correct that the main locus of cultural decadence and the main source of its spread lie in elites, but he never explains why the elites hate the civilization over which they preside, why they are determined to subvert it, or why they harbor anti-Western, anti-Christian, anti-white, and anti-American ideologies.
Why does Susan Sontag insist that the “white race is the cancer of human history”? Why did John Lennon moan on about his self-appointed mission to abolish religion, country, and possessions? Why does an entire class of academics and intellectuals subscribe to the milkish poison of the Humanist Manifesto? And, perhaps most important of all, why does almost everyone who doesn’t believe this stuff nevertheless tolerate it, submit to it, and fear to challenge it? Mr. Buchanan never offers much of an answer to these crucial questions, but perhaps it’s asking too much to insist on it. After all, who else has offered convincing answers?
Toward the end of the book, he tells us:
But America and the West face four clear and present dangers. The first is a dying population. Second is the mass immigration of peoples of different colors, creeds, and cultures, changing the character of the West forever. The third is the rise to dominance of an anti-Western culture in the West, deeply hostile to its religions, traditions, and morality, which has already sundered the West. The fourth is the breakup of nations and the defection of ruling elites to a world government whose rise entails the end of nations.
There can be no disagreement with this catalogue of threats, but with the exception of the fourth, every one of them is directly related to race. The population decline is a problem only because the population in question is white, and no other race can replace it. Mass immigration is a problem because the immigrants are non-white and therefore largely unable to assimilate to or carry on the civilization created by whites. The rise of an “anti-Western culture” is largely driven and almost entirely accelerated by mass non-Western immigration itself, allied with the propensity of Western intellectuals and other elites, for whatever reason, to subvert their own race and civilization.
It would seem, then, that even by the terms of his own arguments Mr. Buchanan should have given a good deal more attention to race than he does, and it would have been extremely useful for him to have explained to his readers that the West and America are white societies that could not have existed in the absence of white majority populations and cannot continue to exist if their populations cease to be mainly white. It is quite true that Christianity, as well as science and various literary and artistic achievements and certain kinds of political and social arrangements, are all essential to the Western identity, but none of these institutions has ever come into existence among non-whites, and there is no evidence that anyone except whites can produce or maintain them.
In place of race, Mr. Buchanan argues (as quoted above) that “Christianity gave birth to the West and undergirds its moral and political order” and suggests religion as “the unifying principle” and “the source of moral authority that holds the West together.” He is probably right that Christianity has served that function for the last two millennia. He is also correct that it is ceasing to do so, and he rightly asks what new “unifying principle” can replace it:
Some say racial solidarity. But the past five hundred years have been an endless chronicle of European peoples slaughtering one another, with World Wars I and II as climax to the horrors. And during that past half-millennium, the great enemies of Western faith, culture, and civilization have come out of the West. Moreover, America is a multiethnic, multiracial nation today, and the nations of Europe will be tomorrow.
Yes, but the intra-European conflicts of the past 500 years were in no small part incited by religion, as in the Thirty Years War, the bloodiest conflict in European history until the 20th century. The white race of Europe has been no more divided against itself than the Christians of Europe have been at odds with each other, and even before the religious conflicts of the Reformation era, Christians fought Christians regardless of doctrinal unity. Religious solidarity is no better and no more enduring a unifying principle than race has been. Moreover, when Europeans have faced challenges from other races, as with the Mongols of the 13th century or with Arabic Muslims in the Crusades or (not always, but for the most part) with Indians, Africans, and Asians in the era of empire, whites have generally stood together.
As for the “multiethnic, multiracial” character of modern America, Mr. Buchanan is right, but that in itself is due to recent historical shifts in the composition of our population, and there is no reason why it cannot shift back to what it used to be—especially with a little government assistance.
The fact that race has not always served as an effective social and political bond in the past does not mean that it cannot so serve in the future, or that other forces such as national or credal identity will prevail over racial bonds. It is arguable that the most important achievement of the second half of the 20th century, both in science and in social and political affairs, was the rediscovery of race as a natural reality as well as a meaningful social and political force; that does not mean race necessarily will serve as an adequate bond or “unifying principle,” but certainly there is no reason to assume that it won’t or can’t.
Almost every European nation has an explicitly racially conscious political party that opposes immigration and is gaining votes because of it.
Moreover it is also arguable that as religion has declined, racial consciousness has risen. Until recent years, few Europeans had any experience or knowledge of non-whites, and there was little racial consciousness among them. Today, with non-white immigrants pouring into the continent, white Europeans may not go to church much, but almost every nation has an explicitly racially conscious political party that opposes immigration and is gaining votes because of it. Americans by contrast have always had a racial consciousness considerably stronger than that of most Europeans simply because they have had to deal with Indians, blacks, and Asian immigrants. American history, as the anti-white left keeps preaching, is replete with white racial consciousness; there is every reason to expect it to revive as the confrontation with non-white immigrants escalates. Yet Mr. Buchanan quite simply refuses either to consider that possibility or evaluate its desirability. Far from dismissing racial solidarity, he should have examined its possibilities as a national “unifying principle” much more deeply.
For the last two decades and especially in the last ten years, Pat Buchanan has been one of white America’s foremost heroes—a man who has not hesitated to say what others fear to say about immigration, the economy, culture, foreign policy, and even occasionally about some aspects of race itself, a man who has risked his career—and perhaps even his life—to make Americans see what many don’t want to see and what their leaders do their best to prevent them from seeing. It is a disappointment that he seems to have avoided in this latest book and indeed in most of his career the kind of consistent and ruthless analysis of race he has brought to bear on almost every other subject he has approached.
While The Death of the West is a flawed book—flawed by the author’s refusal to pursue certain questions and issues to their logical conclusion and perhaps by his failure to recognize such questions and issues at all—it is by no means without merit; it offers an avalanche of facts and quotations to substantiate its claims, and it is well worth buying simply as a compendium and as an introduction to the crisis that these facts present. Most Americans, and especially most conservatives, would profit from reading it carefully and thinking hard about the unpleasant realities it documents, and it is probably the most forthright book on the mortal threat of population decline, immigration, and political, cultural—and racial—displacement now in print. Yet if Mr. Buchanan had confronted the truth about race head on, he would have written a much stronger book and a book that could have served as a manual of political and cultural warfare in a white (as well as a Christian) reconquest of America and the West. As it is, The Death of the West is by no means as forthright as it could have been or as it needed to be if the West is to be pulled back from the precipice on which it now stands.