Pat Buchanan: Conservatives of the Heart
In his 1992 Republican Convention speech, Pat Buchanan publicized the Culture War that has been raging in our country since the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s. In this speech, Pat says many powerful things, but one of the moments that stuck with me the most is when he said there was a growing rift in the conservative movement, and in the United States. At the top of the conservative counter-revolution there are the learned leadership who can, at times lose sight of the mission. And, that mission is reaching out to those in the heartland – the folks in the trenches, the folks who make our country great. Here is an excerpt from Mr. Buchanan’s speech that really sends the message home:
“My friends, even in tough times, these people are with us. They don’t read Adam Smith or Edmund Burke, but they come from the same schoolyards and playgrounds and towns as we did. They share our beliefs and convictions, our hopes and our dreams. They are the conservatives of the heart. They are our people. And we need to reconnect with them. We need to let them know we know they’re hurting. They don’t expect miracles, but they need to know we care.”
This statement struck my core, and reminded me that though the debates may be amongst the intellectuals and professionals, the debates are over great issues that strike and effect every man. Barack Obama came to power on the back of broad popular support – the common man knew not the answer to our nation’s problems and Obama won them over with great promises and grandiose ideas that have no root in reality. Barack Obama spoke to the common man and convinced them he felt their pain, and understood their fear and anguish.
Today, the battle for the average man rages on. Mitt Romney has gained the support of the intellectual leadership of the Republican Party, but the average man, as I discuss the issues with classmates and friends, is having a hard time connecting with the candidate. This mistrust has come about because our party has not held true the lesion given by Buchanan – we are drifting away from our conservative roots, we are drifting away from the central population that makes up the base of our party.
The Republican Party does not have the luxury of a dependent urban population or union memberships to keep the party afloat like that of the Democrats; the Republican Party instead has to reach out to the heartland, the country side, and the rural community to garnish support. And, admittedly, this task is daunting and many will say that the country side will remain forever conservative and Republican. But, with a weary fear, I say that is not the case.
During spring break I did not traverse to Florida or the beach, no. I ventured to the US-Canadian borderlands in upstate New York. Now, for those of you who have never been to the region, upstate New York is a rural, mountainous region, and as you approach the border the land become flat and more agrarian as the Adirondacks fade into the rearview mirror. While there, I spent time talking to some of the people from my generation about some of the larger issues at hand, and found myself a little worried. These folks, who I thought would be thumping their chests with conservative pride, were actually drifting down the enabling position of moderation. And, from that moderate position, I fear many of them will soon become ripe for the liberal picking. The truth of the matter is, these people have been abandoned by the mainstream of the party, and they are now reaching out to any one system that will yield the biggest reward for the least amount of risk and work.
How can we remedy this daunting issue? How can we reach out to the conservatives of the heart? We need to, instead of slouching towards the mainstream of the urban, liberal utopia, be marching proudly towards the conservative homeland – a place where man is not a ward of the state, but is instead as the fresh air of the rural society. During my trip, I found myself along the banks Raquette River (the fifth longest river in the state), that runs into the St. Laurence. While I stood there, striking a Theodore Rooseveltian pose, I was overwhelmed by the liberating aura of the cold, crisp air, cooled even more by the thundering water that smashed against the ancient rocks along the rapids. I was, at that moment, unknowingly aware, of the conservative heartland. We are not, as the media, social networks, and revisionist ideology would like you to believe, a urban people. We are a people of the land; we are a people of wilderness’s possibility.
No man’s grandfather migrated to our country to wander the unforgiving streets of our great cities – they came to our country to obtain a peace of our nation’s wilderness and form, out of the untamed potential, a place that was theirs. We are a people who are genetically programmed, through the choice and voluntary nature of immigration, to seek independence. We would all, if given the option of hyper-individuality or dictated conformation, select the option that gives us total liberty. And, we must defend that notion. We must not retreat from our historical roots, we must not retreat from our genetics, and we must not turn a blind eye to the people with whom we share our parallel ambitions with.
I understand that only 16% of the country’s population is rural, and that is could be rather tempting for a political party to abandon this minority in pursuing other, more profitable demographics for political gains – but, in ostracizing the countryside, we run the risk of losing our conservative base forever. Furthermore, the loss of the rural vote would be the loss of the party’s conservative anchor.
Pat Buchanan failed to win the 1992 nomination; instead he yielded to George H. W. Bush. During the campaign it was Buchanan’s only objective (though every candidate says they are in it to win it, that is not always the reality) was to pull Bush away from the center, with the hopes of making the presumptive nominee address some of the pressing conservative issues of the day, including the attack on private education, the growing opposition to gay marriage, abortion„ immigration issues, and the ongoing “culture war” against traditional American ideas. Pat said it best when he said, “If the country wants to go in a liberal direction, if the country wants to go in the direction of [Democrats]…, it doesn’t bother me as long as I’ve made the best case I can.”
And, Buchanan did a fine job publicizing the issues, successfully drawing Bush to the right on abortion and gay marriage, and also obtaining a silent agreement on the immigration issues – though Bush Sr. did not speak quite as furiously. The modern example of this role could be owed to Rick Santorum’s run against Mitt Romney is the most recent Republican cycle. Rick drew Mitt further to the right. Now, many in the center may view this as damming, preferring to keep social issues and more sensitive topics in the political closet – but, as a conservative Romney supporter, I found Santorum’s show of conservative force to be a healthy stage in the evolution of the Romney campaign.
Rick Santorum always spoke of the “need to draw clear distinctions” between the Republican candidate and Barack Obama. And, if Romney was not challenged by Santorum, it is quite possible that the electorate would not have been exposed to many of Romney’s stances. This primary cycle has been a healthy one, but still the fear that the party might be turning a blind eye to the rural electorate in favor of a more suburban and centrist demographic – and, such a change would be an abandonment of the conservative of the heart.
(Here’s a link to Pat’s speech - it’s very powerful: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9gSWZxtN1g)