"Buchanan's devotion to his "people" was shaped by the Catholic church of his youth, Blessed Sacrament parish in Northwest Washington, D.C., a place where religious and patriotic fervor were fused into one clear and unquestioned faith. "There was something called sin," recalls one of his boyhood chums; "there was right and wrong."
The defining enemy of Buchanan's youth was "godless communism." William F. Gavin, author of a favorite Buchanan book, Street Corner Conservative, says that to Catholics in the 1950s "communism seemed particularly evil because of its anti-God status. We felt communism was a threat to every good thing we believed in.""
U.S.NEWS & WORLD REPORT
For months, the race for the Republican nomination has been defined by Bob Dole. Voters were either supporting the Senate leader or searching for someone else. But now the focus has shifted to Pat Buchanan, the hard-driving, blunt-talking TV commentator and former White House aide who finished second in the Iowa caucuses and first in the New Hampshire primary. Those unexpected and unsettling results leave the GOP pondering two critical questions: Where does Buchanan really stand? And can he win?
The first answer can be summed up in a standard Buchanan line: "I want to take back our country from ......" Then he fills in the blank with a litany of enemies: corporations and lobbyists, Wall Street and Hollywood, homosexuals and abortionists. For Buchanan, says Ray Price, who worked with him in the Nixon White House, "everything is war— cold war, hot war or cultural war."
Buchanan has assembled a coalition of grievance at a time when many Americans feel they are losing control: of their streets, their schools, their television sets, their borders, their government, their children, their future. Some of his strongest supporters get up every morning and ask: What if . . . ? What if I lose my job, my health benefits, my pension? But many Republicans fear Buchanan is a dangerously polarizing force who fans fears, exploits prejudices, offers superficial answers and threatens to drive moderates into the eager arms of Bill Clinton and the Democrats.
"Death struggle." For that reason Buchanan remains, for now, a very long shot. Dole, who won Iowa and finished second in New Hampshire, has far more money, endorsements and organization. But, for the first time, even Dole loyalists are starting to believe that a Buchanan victory is at least conceivable. Their nightmare: Dole gets locked in a "death struggle," as one adviser put it, with Lamar Alexander, the former Tennessee governor who finished third in the two early tests. Each is determined to knock the other off, and both may succeed.
This three-way shootout will take place mainly in thc South, where South Carolina votes on March 2 and six other states with 371 Republican convention delegates follow within 10 days [story, Page 41]. And as Buchanan predicted on election night in New Hampshire, even the remote possibility that he could win the nomination has sent aftershocks rumbling through the ranks of party insiders [story, Page 38]. But their "stop Buchanan" efforts have been crippled by a fear of alienating voters they will need in November. In an interview with 'U.S. News,' Buchanan reinforced that threat: "You can't keep insulting us and expecting us to come back in and help you."
But Buchanan's insurgency has already unmasked deep divisions in the Republican Party, divisions that were on vivid display in Arizona when the candidate rode in the Tucson Rodeo Parade two days after New Hampshire. One man in the crowd was Tom Sisk, a 73-year-old retired constroction worker with a handwritten note in his shirt pocket addressed to Buchanan: "I'm a lifelong Democrat but I plan to vote for you. So give the rest of the candidates hell. We need all those jobs in the U.S.A." But hundreds of others lined the route waving yellow placards reading, "Buchanan NO!!!"
Buchanan's success would never have been possible without Dole's weakness. The Kansan is stilt groping for a message, but his strengths are his private connections, not his public skills. He boasts a campaign war chest of more than $6 million, a huge staff and a vast network of influential supporters.
Buchanan has a limited budget and hardly any staff, relying heavily on his sister, Angela "Bay" Buchanan, to run his campaign and keep him in line [story Page 34]. One of his secret weapons: a private mailing list of more than 100,000 proven Buchanan supporters ready to contribute small sums on a regular basis. Richard Viguerie, a pioneer in the use of direct mail, says this kind of fund-raising allows "a small, unknown person to play with the big boys."
Counterattack. Pat Buchanan is clearly playing with the big boys now. That means his ideas will receive much closer scrutiny than ever before, and ringing phrases that sounded fine on TV talk shows or in syndicated columns can take on a whole new meaning when the author is a serious candidate for president. Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York was one of the first Republicans to oppose him, labeling Buchanan "racist, antisemitic, anti-immigrant, anti-integration and anti-New York."
The question is whether ordinary voters feel the same way, and the results in New Hampshire last week offer a mixed picture. Buchanan's clarity and consistency played well with voters like Tim Hanson, who works for a lumber business in Goffstown: "He hasn't wavered at all. You don't see that much." Buchanan won a clear majority with two kinds of voters: those who described themselves as "very coservative" and supporters of the religious right. "I figure if he's pro-life, he'll vote right on everything else," said Marianne Therrien, a young mother who teaches her two children at home.
Buchanan's breakthrough, however, was with working families who are anxious about their economic security. In New Hampshire, he held a clear lead among voters earning between $15,000 and $50,000 a year. But among moderates, Buchanan ran a poor third, and many of them agreed with Leslie Haslam, a high school teacher who resented the religious right's support of Buchanan. "I'm a Christian," she says, "and they don't speak for me." Others found Buchanan's incendiary language unnerving.
To understand this man who elicits such conflicting reactions, go back to the two main sources of his identity: his family and his mentors.
In his memoir, Right From the Beginning, Buchanan says he is not a purebred Irish-Catholic. His Buchanan forebears were Irish Protestants who settled in the South. owned slaves and thought "all Catholics had horns." But his grandfather married a German Catholic, and young Pat grew up believing in both the Roman Catholic Church and "the greatness of the Confederacy."
One friend describes Buchanan as a "tribalist," fiercely loyal to his clan and his country, and the candidate embraces that label. After one of his advisers, Larry Pratt, was accused of consorting with white supremacists, Buchanan refused to fire him. "I stand by my friends," he insisted. "I'm with my people."
Buchanan's devotion to his "people" was shaped by the Catholic church of his youth, Blessed Sacrament parish in Northwest Washington, D.C., a place where religious and patriotic fervor were fused into one clear and unquestioned faith. "There was something called sin," recalls one of his boyhood chums; "there was right and wrong."
The defining enemy of Buchanan's youth was "godless communism." William F. Gavin, author of a favorite Buchanan book, Street Corner Conservative, says that to Catholics in the 1950s "communism seemed particularly evil because of its anti-God status. We felt communism was a threat to every good thing we believed in."
Buchanan's father, William, was a successful accountant who staunchly defended the anti-Communist crusades of Sen. Joseph McCarthy. His son's attacks on "the establishment" can be traced to his boyhood belief that McCarthy was destroyed by the political elite. In fact he links McCarthy's demise to that of another hero, Richard Nixon: "The passions were identical; the coalitions for and against both men were roughly the same; and both men were despised antagonists of Establishment liberalism and the American Left."
In 1966, Buchanan went to work for Nixon as a political aide. During their eight years together, Buchanan coined thc phrase "silent majority" and helped forge the political strategy that drew millions of disaffected, "hard hat" Democrats into the Republican ranks.
SINNERS. The times produced two new enemies. One was cultural. the potsmoking, free-loving, antiwar generation that reveled in sin. Many Americans, says Gavin, "felt the values they stood for were being ignored, that they were being taken for granted by the very Democratic Party they were so loyal to."
The second new enemy was the civil rights movement, which demanded racial integration and disrupted white-only schools and neighborhouds. As a proud son of the Confederacy, Buchanan urged Nixon — largely without effect — to resist court-ordered integration. In fact, Nixon once described Buchanan's racial views as "segregation forever."
Nixon helped fuse traditional, country club Republicans and "street corner conservatives" into a coalition that helped launch a generation of Republican rule in the White House. But in recent years, with communism collapsing, the New Left fading and black militancy waning, Buchanan needed new enemies. The times provided a host of them.
The 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion thrust that issue onto center stage. Buchanan's response to the gay-pride movement was to call AIDS God's wrath against homosexuals. His answer to feminism was a declaration that women lack the natural ambition to succeed, his response to a new wave of Hispanic and Asian immigration was a warning that non-European immigrants were diluting the American culture.
Conversion. But Buchanan's most dramatic and important shift was economic. Long a believer in the free-trade doctrines of Nixon and Ronald Reagan — whom he served for two years as communications director — Buchanan says he underwent a conversion during his 1992 campaign for president. He was shaking hands with paper workers in Groveton, N.H., when one of them said, "Save our jobs." As Buchanan recalls the moment: "It just went right through me."
Today his railing against Wall Street bankers and Washington lobbyists fits the worldview he has long espoused; The "establishment" is out to destroy hardworking, God-fearing Americans.
Most people who know Buchanan insist he is not a racist. But as one friend puts it, "he has racists around him, I think he attracts them." His attitude toward Jews is cloudier. He has accused Jews of exaggerating the Holocaust and he once defended a Nazi death camp guard. In his attacks on "the establishment," Buchanan often seems to reach for Jewish names: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is his preferred symbol of the Supreme Court and Goldman Sachs is his favored symbol of Wall Street.
Buchanan has touched a raw nerve in Republican ranks — several of them, in fact. More than any other candidate, he has fierce supporters and bitter detractors. The question now is whether the Republicans can recover from their civil war in time to battle their other enemy — the Democrats.
BY STEVEN V. ROBERTS WITH JIM IMPOCO IN ARIZONA AND LINDA KULMAN