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Patrick Joseph Buchanan

(1938)


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(b. Washington, DC, 2 Nov. 1938)

US; politician Born into a large Roman Catholic family of Irish origins, Buchanan was educated at Georgetown University and the Columbia School of Journalism. His early career was spent working for the St Louis Globe Democrat; but in 1966 he became associated with Richard Nixon's presidential bid working for him first as a researcher and speech writer, then moving into the White House as a special assistant. During his time in the Nixon White House Buchanan dealt with media issues and spearheaded the conservative attack on the liberal news media.

When Nixon left office Buchanan remained but he began to promote his own conservative agenda through widely syndicated newspaper columns, radio, and television. That agenda emphasized the need to reduce radically the role of government in the economy and welfare and took a very conservative line on social issues such as abortion and school prayer. On foreign policy, Buchanan was a militant anti-Communist; but with the end of the Cold War he moved towards an isolationist position which fitted well with his nativist populism.

Buchanan's conservative activism made him an enthusiastic supporter of President Reagan but he sometimes found it difficult to adapt his shrill views to the realities of government. Thus in 1985 when Buchanan became Director of Communications at the White House, his ideological interpretation of the role frequently brought him into conflict with Reagan's more pragmatic advisers and indeed exacerbated relationships with Congress.

When Reagan retired, Buchanan increasingly projected himself as the spokesman of the conservative movement. In 1992 he ran against Republican candidate George Bush in the primaries and although he won 37 per cent in New Hampshire he lost in all of them. Yet his invocation of ‘a cultural and religious war’ generated substantial organizational and financial support and put in place a network of activists loyal to him rather than the Republican Party. In 1996 he ran again on a populist ‘America First’ ticket which emphasized anti-abortion and curbs on imports. He achieved just under 22 per cent of the popular vote and lost the Republican nomination to Robert Dole. Although Buchanan was clearly not enthusiastic about Dole's candidacy he rejected the idea of supporting third-party candidate Ross Perot, or mounting an independent candidacy himself. However, he left the Republican Party in 1999, and was the presidential nominee for Perot's Reform Party in the 2000 elections. He came fourth with 0.4 per cent of the public vote. Thereafter he concentrated on spreading his conservative message through his journalism, including launching The American Conservative magazine in 2002, and has not stood for President again, endorsing Bush in 2004.

Buchanan remains one of the most visible leaders of the conservative movement. But he is also divisive and he has failed to translate his support into a successful candidacy for major elective office.

Subjects: Politics.


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