In one of the more morally repugnant and historically egregious columns in recent memory, Pat Buchanan, godfather to the paleoconservative movement that forms a core piece of Trumpism, has now fully rejected the American credo: “All men are created equal.” Instead, he proposes that America embrace Western civilization’s history of white supremacism.
This is Buchanan going full Buchanan. Buchanan has always flirted with white supremacism — in 2005, Buchanan suggested that the West was wrong to go to war with Hitler; in 2006, he wrote the foreword to a compilation of writings by white supremacist Sam Francis; his magazine, The American Conservative, was co-founded by self-described “soi-disant anti-Semite” Taki Theodoracopulos; William F. Buckley once described Buchanan’s views as anti-Semitic. There’s a reason that American Renaissance publishes his work.
But in this column, Buchanan goes pretty much whole hog.
The column begins by decrying the attempt to remove Confederate statues and Confederate flags from the public square. But it soon devolves into a wholesale embrace of the notion that white supremacism created Western civilization:
Gen. George Washington and his subordinate, “Light Horse Harry” Lee, father of Robert E. Lee, were slave owners, as was Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe and Andrew Jackson. Five of our first seven presidents owned slaves, as did James K. Polk, who invaded and annexed the northern half of Mexico, including California. Jefferson, with his exploitation of Sally Hemings and neglect of their children, presents a particular problem. While he wrote in the Declaration of Independence of his belief that “all men are created equal,” his life and his depiction of Indians in that document belie this. And Jefferson is both on the face of Mount Rushmore and has a memorial in the U.S. capital.
First off, we memorialize the accomplishments of these men, not their slaveholding. Buchanan’s argument here is exactly the argument of those who seek to remove Washington and Jefferson memorials: that Lee and Washington were exactly the same. That’s asinine. Washington built the greatest country in world history, a country that embedded into its founding documents a universal credo applicable to all of humanity: “all men are created equal.” Lee fought to tear apart that country; even if he was himself a man of honor, he fought for an evil cause, the preservation of slavery.
But Buchanan goes even further. He doesn’t defend the founders as products of their time — which would unquestionably be true — he praises them for their sins. In fact, he says that white supremacy should not be a mortal sin today. Here he goes:
Another term applied to the “Unite the Right” gathering in Charlottesville is that they are “white supremacists,” a mortal sin to modernity. But here we encounter an even greater problem. Looking back over the history of a Western Civilization, which we call great, were not the explorers who came out of Spain, Portugal, France, Holland and England all white supremacists?… Beginning in the 16th century, Western imperialists ruled much of what was called the civilized world. Was not the British Empire, one of the great civilizing forces in human history, a manifestation of British racial superiority?
Again, this is amazing. Buchanan is engaging in a basic category error: mistaking Western civilization for racial self-awareness. It’s ignorant of Buchanan to equate Spanish explorers with English explorers when the two were at war, and considered each other enemies — where was their white solidarity? And even if many of our Western forebears made racial category errors, why would we embrace those category errors? In fact, the history of Western civilization shows how malleable that category — “whiteness” — is: we have seen additions to the definition of “whiteness,” even from white supremacists. Just ask the Italians, Germans, and Irish.
It wasn’t the white supremacy of the British that made India more democratic — it was their promulgation of democratic institutions.
Nonetheless, Buchanan pushes forward:
Nor is a belief in the superiority of one’s race, religion, tribe and culture unique to the West. What is unique, what is an experiment without precedent, is what we are about today. We have condemned and renounced the scarlet sins of the men who made America and embraced diversity, inclusivity and equality. … “All men are created equal” is an ideological statement. Where is the scientific or historic proof for it? Are we building our utopia on a sandpile of ideology and hope?
You know who actually built that utopia on a supposed “sandpile of ideology and hope”? Our founding fathers. Abraham Lincoln. The great heroes of American history. That’s because “all men are created equal” isn’t a sandpile of hope at all: it’s a basic description of our common human value in the eyes of God and the law. It’s descriptive, not hopeful. Buchanan, like most other white supremacists, thinks “all men are created equal” refers to quality of human beings rather than innate value. But our founders never made that mistake. They just knew that human beings are all made from the same stuff, no matter our race and ethnicity. They knew that Western civilization can assimilate those who began as outsiders, and should do so.
And Pat Buchanan’s would-be white utopia is built on a pile of an entirely different and more odorous material altogether.