Posted on January 25, 2023

Pat Buchanan Retires as GOP Increasingly Channels His ‘America First’ Themes

W. James Antle, Washington Examiner, January 24, 2023


Pat Buchanan has retired from his syndicated column ahead of a presidential election that will test the staying power of a more populist and nationalist conservatism and after a midterm election cycle that demonstrated its growing pains.

In addition to his decades of commentary, Buchanan advised Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan as they integrated the “silent majority” into the GOP. He ran for the office three times himself, on a platform similar to the one former President Donald Trump was elected on in 2016.

“What America first means is we put the national interests of the United States and the well-being of our own country and our own people first. Our foreign policy, first and foremost, should be focused on the defense of American freedom, security, and rights,” Buchanan told NPR two days after Trump took office.

It was a phrase widely seen as considered discredited by World War II that Buchanan had been using as far back as his 1990 National Interest essay “America First — and Second, and Third.”

Originally a Cold War hawk and free trade proponent, Buchanan began to espouse a less interventionist foreign policy after the Soviet Union disintegrated and trade policies designed to protect the U.S. industrial base. {snip}


That wasn’t the only area where Buchanan foreshadowed Trump’s appeal.

“We need a sea wall to stop the tidal wave of illegal immigration and narcotics sweeping over our southern border,” read the Buchanan campaign brochure. “We need a ‘time out’ on legal immigration — to assimilate and Americanize the millions who have come in recent decades.”

Long before Buchanan began sounding different from a Chamber of Commerce Republican on trade, immigration or foreign policy, he was writing speeches for Spiro Agnew and memos nudging GOP presidents to disaffected blue-collar Democrats.


Politico called Trump “Pat Buchanan with better timing.” The New York Times dubbed Buchanan “the man who won the Republican Party before Trump did.” Five days after Trump’s inauguration, New York Magazine printed the headline, “Welcome to the Pat Buchanan administration.”

But the two men briefly squared off for the Reform Party’s presidential nomination ahead of the 2000 election. It was during that campaign that Trump took many of the positions that made Republicans doubt his conservative credentials, especially on social issues. {snip}

Almost a quarter of a century later, the Republican Party looks considerably more Buchananite than like the winner of that election, former President George W. Bush. {snip}