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In his recently published book, The Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?, cable television pundit Pat Buchanan serves up an erroneous vision of the United States without white supremacy. For Buchanan, the end is near if you’re white, Christian, and conservative.
Buchanan makes a strenuous effort to scare the feeble-minded by demonizing the nation’s first black president. He writes in a chapter with the silly heading “The End of White America”:
Those who believe the rise in power of an Obama rainbow coalition of peoples of color means the whites who helped to engineer it will steer it are deluding themselves. The whites may discover what it is like to ride in the back of the bus.
This book is nothing new. It is yet another in a long line of foolishness written by Buchanan that pushes a vile form of white populism coated in pseudo-historical veneer. Buchanan has a history of making racism appear mainstream, and it has made him successful enough to travel in elite political circles, due in part to his role on television as the crazy-conservative throwback.
Buchanan is a huckster in the tradition of P.T. Barnum. He has an act, and he is shameless in sticking to its script. I saw this up close when, as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, I covered his futile presidential run in 1992. He barnstormed the country, promising to lead a “pitchfork” revolution to secure liberty and freedom for white folks. Interestingly, his travels never touched down in the inner city or any place that might challenge his vision of white-only America.
In most places, people lined up to see the man who debated liberals on “Crossfire” and to buy his book. I especially remember a stop at a shopping mall in suburban Detroit, where I interviewed people standing in a long line, waiting for hours to shake Buchanan’s hand.
“Nah, I’m not voting for him, but I wanted to see someone in person who is on my television all the time,” a woman told me as she stood in that line.
With that sinister-looking smile on his face, Buchanan knows precisely what he’s doing. He’s selling books and making money on the lecture circuit. Why reputable cable outlets such as MSNBC allow him a platform is easy to understand, too. He says outrageous things that make people want to watch. Whether he actually believes everything he says, I’m not so sure. But there must be a core of conviction somewhere.
Buchanan is a product of Washington and figured out early how to churn political power into a fat bank account. Remember, this is the man who served in the employ of three Republican presidents (Nixon, Ford, and Reagan). But he’s especially proud of his odious work in the Nixon administration to craft the "Southern Strategy" that cleaved conservative white Democrats from their party after the successes of the civil rights movement. His hater-mentality—directed at Jews, gays, women, immigrants, and more—is historic and well documented.
As a personal rule, I tend to leave it to other commentators to take apart the ignorant arguments made by attention-seeking racists such as Ann “our blacks are better” Coulter and Buchanan. The Washington Post’s Colbert King does it nicely. And Talking Point Memo’s Muckraker column makes it clear that Buchanan is “pretty racist or just crazy,” having read through Buchanan’s tome, “pick[ing] out some highlights, so that you really really don’t have to” be seen in public with this nasty book.
Indeed, I’d advocate ignoring Buchanan completely. I don’t buy his books. Why make him any richer by plunking down hard-earned money for his lies? But I write this column because the stakes of silence are too expensive.
Plus, Buchanan’s ranting offers an opportunity to promote an optimistic and promising vision of this nation’s future by drawing attention to the work that my colleagues and I are doing to make it happen.
The Center for American Progress recently launched a program, Progress 2050, which seeks to bring clear-eyed analysis to the challenges and opportunities posed by the nation’s increasing racial and ethnic diversity. By the year 2050 the U.S. Census estimates the nation’s population will no longer be majority white. At some point in the next 40 years, dramatic and ongoing shifts in our citizenry will produce a nation of many minority groups.
While these demographic changes are certain to bring social, political, and economic change as well, they shouldn’t be a reason for turning on one another. White people have nothing to fear, except the loose lips of people such as Buchanan.
Where Buchanan sees decline for white Americans (and the end of Western civilization), my colleagues Vanessa Cárdenas, Julie Ajinkya, and Daniella Gibbs Leger see exactly the opposite. They are optimistic and celebrate the increasing diversity of the U.S. population in a recently released report, “Progress 2050: New Ideas for a Diverse America.”
“We cannot allow the conversation about the future of this country to be dominated by voices on the right who advocate a very narrow definition of the American ideal,” they correctly write in the report. “The demographic shift is a reality we must accept and embrace. And a clear vision of where we want our country to be in 2050 and how to get there is urgently needed.”
Now more than ever, progressive voices are needed to drown out the backward utterings of conservative boogeymen such as Buchanan.
Sam Fulwood III is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Director of the CAP Leadership Institute. His work with the Center’s Progress 2050 project examines the impact of policies on the nation when there will be no clear racial or ethnic majority by the year 2050.
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