Live from the Republicans' Self-Made Gehenna: Jeet Heer: The Once and Future Trump:
The Republican Party was torn asunder by a populist media personality running a [white nativist]
nationalistcampaign based on immigration restriction, protectionism, and an anti-internationalist foreign policy....
Initially dismissed as a bigoted crank, this upstart presidential candidate managed to humiliate the GOP establishment, led by the Bush family. This is not just a description of the 2016 elections. It also happened in 1992. Unlike Donald Trump, Pat Buchanan didn’t win the nomination, but... Buchanan’s candidacy provides a crucial context for understanding not just the roots of Trumpism, but also its likely future.... One of the biggest mistakes pundits make about Trump is to treat him as a historical fluke.... Trump is neither a magical bird nor a false-flag candidate. He has a definite lineage within the Republican Party—and if Trump had ancestors, he’ll also have descendants.
To predict the future of Trumpism, it helps to understand why Buchanan and his peculiar brand of right-wing nationalist conservatism (called paleoconservatism) emerged in the late 1980s.... Dissatisfaction with Reagan’s triumph emerged by a peculiar combination of success abroad and stalemate at home.... While anti-communism succeeded beyond expectations, social conservatives like Buchanan couldn’t help but notice that on other fronts, America continued to be liberal... feminism and gay rights continued to advance, Martin Luther King’s birthday was made a national holiday, and mass immigration—both legal and undocumented—continued to dilute the demographic dominance of the white majority.
As the Wall Street Journal noted in a 1989 editorial, “anti-Communism has been the glue that held the conservative movement together.” Without the unifying threat of a supposedly global enemy, the right began to splinter... neoconservatives and paleoconservatives.... Pat Buchanan was Trump avant la lettre, a proto-Trump who developed in rudimentary form the political themes that would lead the real estate magnate to victory in 2016. In a 1992 speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, Buchanan described undocumented immigration as an existential threat because “a nation that controls its own borders can scarcely call itself a nation any longer.” Twenty-four years later, Trump was warning that unless the immigration system was fixed, “We are not going to have a country anymore.”
In his 1993 book Beautiful Losers, Samuel T. Francis, one of Buchanan’s key intellectual advisors, advocated a foreign policy stance that prefigures Trumpism:
Economic nationalism and the struggle to preserve national sovereignty and cultural identity are likely to be more important issues for Middle American nationalists than fighting communists, anti-American plug-uglies from the Third World, and international terrorists....
There were race and class dimensions.... Paleocons, especially Francis, argued that working class whites were an untapped electoral resource.... In retrospect, the terms of this battle, which raged through these publications into the early ’90s, foreshadowed the debate between the #NeverTrump faction and the alt-right in 2016.... The neocons won [in the 1990s], thanks to their institutional advantage: a stranglehold on the large donors, think tanks, and major conservative media outlets. But the paleocon impulse never fully died.... Trump has proven that paleoconservatism has a much bigger market than anyone would’ve predicted after Buchanan’s three failed presidential runs.... Just as Trump picked up the core of Buchanan’s politics and put his own spin on it, a future Republican likely will do the same with Trump’s.