Pat Buchanan Turns Left?

He re-emerges as an anti-war, anti-Wall-Street voice.


| March / April 2003


An ambitious new political magazine hit the stands late last year with bold pronouncements against the war on Iraq, the culture of greed in corporate boardrooms, and numerous Bush administration policies. Its back pages included a compelling essay about the quirky genius and strong social commitment of Neil Young. An obituary sadly noted the passing of Jim Chapin, one of the leading lights of Democratic Socialists of America. Casual newsstand browsers would assume that the progressive press had gained a new voice. And they would be wrong, at least in the way we typically look at American politics.

This well-funded, bi-weekly journal is named The American Conservative, and its co-editors are Pat Buchanan, a longtime champion of the Republican right, and Taki Thedoracopulos, a veteran conservative journalist with a reputation for jet-set living.

Liberals and leftists will surely find points to dispute in the magazine?s coverage, particularly its strong views about immigration, but the mean-spirited ?culture wars? rhetoric that fueled Buchanan?s 1992 run at the Republican presidential nomination is nowhere in sight. (A gay conservative, Justin Raimondo, wrote an article in the first issue.) The appearance of The American Conservative signals a strategic shift among one faction of the conservative movement and hints at the possibility of a startling political realignment. Already Arianna Huffington, key Republican strategist Kevin Phillips, writer Michael Lind, former Clinton basher David Brock, and prominent British philosopher John Gray have traveled significantly leftward along the political spectrum.

Political realignment on this scale has happened before, significantly in the late 1970s when a number of prominent liberal thinkers (along with many anti-abortion and blue-collar Democrats) were swept up in the rising tide of Reaganism. Indeed, the entry of these neoconservative intellectuals into Republican ranks helps explain the existence of The American Conservative. Buchanan and his colleagues represent the more traditional paleo-conservatives, who have grown increasingly disenchanted with neoconservative dominance of the Republican Party. And now, in one of the odd twists that politics occasionally takes, they have re-emerged to challenge mainstream Republicans?and are doing it in a way that places them to the left of most Democratic politicians on issues like free trade and foreign policy.

It?s way too early to predict the emergence of a new hybrid left-right movement. And it?s anyone?s guess how Buchanan fits with the crunchy conservatives described in the accompanying article. But together these two splinter groups stand as a sign the right?s once-formidable unity is showing cracks. Both of these groups bear watching, not only by political observers drawn to the drama of an ideological donnybrook, but also by folks on the other side of the fence seeking new opportunities to broaden the appeal of progressive politics.

The American Conservative: $29.95/yr. (12 issues) from Box 10829, Riverton, NJ 08076; www.amconmag.com.