THE DEATH OF THE WEST
by Patrick J. Buchanan (St. Martin's Press, $25.95)
TODAY the Cold War is over and the evil empire shattered. Five of the last seven presidents have been Republicans, one installed just last year by a Supreme Court coup. Right-wing chatter tops the cable news ratings and chokes the Internet. New polls show that for the first time ever, more people identify as Republican than Democrat. George W. Bush's approval ratings are among the highest ever recorded. In the closely contested presidential race, the electoral maps showed a sea of red Bush states, while a few blue enclaves clung desperately to America's fringes.
If all is right with America, why is Pat Buchanan so cranky? During election 2000, his gallbladder was removed, but he must be receiving regular transfusions of bile. In his new The Death of the West, the former Nixon speechwriter, Reagan aide, and GOP and Reform Party presidential candidate broods about the future of Western civilization, not that he ever defines it. It seems to be some mix of Judeo-Christian theology—particularly the conservative Catholic brand—combined with the values of an America whose greatest expression is Mount Rushmore: all white males in all-white granite.
But that world, Buchanan argues, is crumbling. The culture war is being won by revolutionaries who include everyone from the purveyors of do-your-own-thingism to women who get abortions. They include Hollywood and "pagan" influences that have turned American culture into a "diseased" sewer. They include the secular humanists who have "tyrannically" driven Christianity into retreat. They include people who practice birth control (he calls the pill "the suicide tablet of the West") and those United Nations-loving sellouts eager to surrender American sovereignty to world government. To make matters worse, there is an unstoppable demographic truth: European and American "indigenous" populations are in decline, and Third World populations are breeding like fruit flies, at least if you believe the evil U.N.'s own numbers. Soon, Buchanan says, we will succumb to uncontrolled immigration, mass migration, and, courtesy of Mexico, a culturally calculated reconquista.
Though Buchanan rips lefty intellectuals and their baby boomer acolytes for rotting America from within, it is the horde factor that weighs most heavily. Both the implicit and explicit racism in his book should give pause to those who still regard Buchanan as even a quasi-mainstream spokesperson for the populist far right. He describes Mexican immigration as an "invasion" and worries that Texas—sweet home of the Alamo—will be less than 50 percent white by 2005. To those who delight in America's growing diversity, such as Bill Clinton, he says, "Surely, it is a rarity in history that people would cheer news that they and their children would soon be dispossessed of their inheritance as a majority in the nation their ancestors built." In Buchanan's history class, African slaves, Chinese railroad workers, and the Native American farmers who saved the first white colonists from starving played no role in building America. Oddly, Confederate heroes (why not "terrorists" in today's jargon?) like Robert E. Lee are equated with George Washington and Abe Lincoln.
BEYOND OUR borders, Buchanan sees Europe on the brink of a new Dark Age: "Only the AIDS epidemic stands in the way of a Europe overshadowed and eventually overwhelmed by African peoples," he writes, relieved at the brief respite. Surf the Web today and you'll find numerous sites that promote a similar worldview; The Death of the West is mainstreaming what neo-Nazis and white supremacists have been saying for ages. The news here is that David Duke never made the best-seller lists, but Pat Buchanan has.
Weirdly, there are a few points on which lefties might agree with Buchanan. In Seattle, WTO protesters set a new standard for challenging globalization's tendency to make cultural differences subservient to economic ones. "Is our country nothing more than an economy?" Buchanan asks. Many liberals would answer an emphatic "No!" And many would agree that pop culture is at best a tarnished reflection of the best in us. But instead of looking for common ground, Buchanan chooses to empty his rhetorical revolver Custer-style at a circling culture war-party consisting of heathen hippies, doddering lefty Jewish intellectuals, feminazis, limp-wristed homos, and Mexican illegals who are about to sweep up, one presumes, on a vast array of wheelchair ramps placed there because of the Americans with Disabilities Act so that the meek can more easily inherit the earth. But not without a fight.
One reads Buchanan's nightmare scenario and wonders: Are these the culture warriors who have brought Western civilization to its knees? If this is so, what kind of sissy civilization are we?
Over a century ago, the British imperial poet Rudyard Kipling declared that the white man's burden consisted of civilizing the savages. Pat Buchanan has redefined that for the new millennium: The white man's burden now is merely to save himself.