We don’t have to pretend like Pat Buchanan is not an unrepentant white supremacist, do we?
Sometimes, when I repeatedly see him on my tv, I’m confused and I think, maybe it’s some other Pat Buchanan who is constantly weeping and bemoaning the death of the white race, the bestest race to ever inhabit the world, and yet, like all good things, too good for this damn place. Oh, woe and boo hoo. Because certainly, if we lived in a sane world, a guy who’s major career objective seems to be writing elegies for the glorious white race, would not be treated like a normal person with thoughtful thoughts to contribute on any given topic.
But it’s the same guy. I guess we’re all supposed to pretend like he’s just Surley Bigot Grandpa, but harmless, and leave it at that.
But sometimes I think it’s useful to remember that he’s a blatant white supremacist.
Because white supremacists have this need to define white that, as it grows more threatened, makes this motion of becoming more exclusionary while seeming as if it’s backed by larger and larger crowds of unspoken supporters.
It’s like this. Say you had a group of two hundred people and just over half of them are white in some loose sense. We’ll say two hundred people and one hundred and ten of them are vaguely white. And a guy like Pat Buchanan comes along and he starts talking about White people (and I mean the capitalization deliberately, because you can be white without necessarily being White, though it’s important for White people that the lines between whiteness and Whiteness are blurry) and what it means to be White.
Now “white” isn’t just a skin color, it’s about a kind of cultural Whiteness. White people are of good Anglo-Saxon stock. They’re Protestant. They work hard. They do well, but not too well. And at times when White people don’t feel too afraid or challenged, those ideas about what make someone White are just out there kind of amorphous and lining up, though imperfectly, with things that are familiar to white people (even if they’re not applicable).
But when White people begin to feel threatened, they start to draw circles. White people don’t like black people. White people are losing their jobs to Hispanics. White people aren’t just Protestant, they’re born again. Smaller and smaller gets the circle of who counts as White, but the number of white people remains the same.
So, in our group of 200, you could define down White people to a group of only twenty-five folks who fit those criteria. But folks like Pat Buchanan run around as if they have the cultural weight of someone speaking for all one hundred and ten white people. Or, often, running around like they have an army of one hundred and ten White people for whom they speak, but they could only get twenty five together at the moment.
I’m not going to get into showing you specific instances of how this works, because I trust you’re smart and can see it for yourselves.
Instead, I want to talk a second about how Buchanan uses that same rhetorical strategy, the one he learned from the White supremacist movement, to talk about Sarah Palin. Watch how he draws ever smaller circles about who gets to be “us” and who is “them.”
What are the characteristics that constitute “us”?
“We” live our Christian beliefs. We have a lot of kids. We are small town conservatives. We are reformers who aren’t afraid of taking on large, faceless, powerful entities. We are fighters. We’re good looking. We hate abortion. We love guns. We go to public schools and state universities. We kill our own food. We’re in unions and we work two jobs. We’re very normal (in the churches we go to and the lives we lead). We’re rebels, though, too.
Now, ask yourself. How many people do you know that fit all that? Who belong to normal, Protestant churches, and live their beliefs, and have a lot of kids, and live in small towns, and are conservatives, and are reformers, and are fighters, and are good looking, and hate abortion, and love guns, and went to public school and a state university, and are avid hunters, and are in a union (or their spouse is), and work two jobs, and are rebels.
That “us” is mighty small–the people who meet all those qualifications. And yet Buchanan talks about “us” like we’re the majority of people in America.
That “us” isn’t even the majority of people in the Republican party.