The Buchanan campaign seems far away already, and did almost by last Wednesday evening, when I loaded my belongings in a snappy European sedan and drove on I-95 back to my New York apartment. Pat's last grueling week on the trail had resulted in no votes - and, hearing him give countless interviews, it seemed almost as if that was how he wished it. For the last two weeks of the campaign, the only polls that interested him were those of Bush and Gore. The mantra he repeated again and again was that the "desire to defeat Al Gore" was the overwhelming theme of the election.
Such words hardly would turn out the Buchanan vote for Buchanan. And they caused no end of irritation to those on the staff who thought a Bush defeat necessary to show the Republican Party that it could not ignore immigration reform, play "me too" to the Clinton foreign policy, etc.
On Election Day, our phones were ringing off the hook from folks asking for clarification of Pat's remarks at his Michigan press conference to the effect that he had learned a third party presidential bid was not the way to raise national issues. Throughout the day, Limbaugh and other GOP radio hosts were trumpeting this as Pat's abandonment of his campaign. We denied it. But there was a grain of truth to the claim.
The last night in Virginia - what we called the end of campaign "event" - was neither happy nor sad; we had a small staff dinner in an Italian restaurant, got back in time to watch the networks call Florida for Gore, and proceeded to the Crystal City Marriot, where a medium crowd had gathered to hear Pat say that we had fought the good fight. Standing with Ohio attorney Tom Piatak and watching the big TV map show red and blue, I still wasn't sure whom I wanted to win. By the next evening, as Sean Hannity on WABC came into radio range on the New Jersey turnpike and the contours of the election endgame revealed themselves, I began to feel an ever-so-slight desire for a Bush victory.
The politically-correct Bush is not much different than Gore. But the dwindling Republican coalition is different. The GOP now has leadership problems, especially at the intellectual level: it has ceded too much ground to the neoconservatives and Wall Street Journal open borders types. But most of its voters are sensible.
(For an example of problems at the intellectual level, look at the WSJ's Paul Gigot's electoral postmortem http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/pgigot/?id=65000571 where he averred that "the one hopeful ethnic sign for the GOP was Mr. Bush's 35% showing among Hispanics." Either Gigot or his editors don't understand that you can't win an election with 35%, or they are so committed to multiculturalism above any other value they will push their prescription for the GOP until the patient's death.)
The GOP did poorly not only among Hispanics. Despite George W's zillions of photo-ops with cute black children, and his headlong flight from the affirmative action issue, he did miserably among blacks as well.
And not only Bush - virtually all Republicans. The neoconservatives have been pushing the idea of a new "rainbow" GOP for a while. This year, the marquee race to show that "Yes, Republicans, we are the Rainbow!" was the battle over Corinne Brown's seat. Brown, a famously corrupt black Democratic Congresswoman from Florida, was being challenged by an attractive black moderate Republican. Extensive coverage of the race appeared in The Weekly Standard and The Wall Street Journal. Then Brown won going away, a 58-42 percent landslide.
The divisions were muted in a campaign where both candidates avoided the ethnic issues (amnesty for illegal aliens, racial quotas, the real reasons why so many schools are failing, etc.) But they are already emerging in Florida's post-campaign. And if (or when) the economy turns sour, they will become as central to our lives - as they are in every other "multicultural" country.
Coming soon! What Buchanan's defeat means for his issues.