Pat Buchanan's 70th birthday on Sunday came and went with disgracefully little fanfare. But no-one casts a longer shadow over this election—or means more for America in the wake of the Great Bush Bust.
For many of my generation (I'm 25), who only know Pat as the firebrand taking on the Establishment, liberal and "conservative", it's hard to imagine that from 1965, when he helped engineer Richard Nixon's political comeback, through the Reagan administration, where he served as one of the Gipper's most trusted advisors, Pat was one of the most prominent Republican insiders.
Then in 1992 he almost took down a sitting president in the primaries. He gave one of the best-known convention speeches in modern American history. In 1996, he came even closer to the nomination. In 2000, his brave Third Party bid did not reach expectations—tragically, because he can now be seen to have been right on the issues—but ironically his large showing among Palm Beach Jews may have tipped the election to George Bush.
Today, Pat is anything but a political insider. But if you have any doubts about his continuing significance, consider that he is the only person that both the Obama and McCain camps have used to smear the other through guilt by association.
When Sarah Palin was first selected as McCain's vice president, we learned that she may have supported Pat during his 1996 primary campaign, when he won the state, and that she once wore a Buchan pin to welcome him to Wasilla.
Obama spokesman Mark Bubriski said "Palin was a supporter of Pat Buchanan a right-winger or, as many Jews call him: a Nazi sympathizer".
Of course, these are the same liberals who are complaining that it is unfair to look into Obama's connections with convicted terrorist Bill Ayers and with his anti-American, anti-white pastor Jeremiah Wright.
"The Anti-Defamation League says Buchanan 'publicly espouses racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and anti-immigrant views.' Yet, Buchanan calls his views on Israel, Iran and the Palestinians the same as Obama's."
The McCain campaign was quick to shut up the North Carolina Republican Party when they ran ads tying Obama to Wright. But they did not make a peep about this Republican group slandering a popular conservative.
Does this just mean Pat is "radioactive"? Sure—but no more so than he was when he came close to winning the Republican nomination in 1996. Pat has always been denounced by the Establishment of the official Left and Right. But he has never apologized and never backed down. Pat's books are bestsellers, and he is still one of the most sought-after political commentators.
Pat doesn't make "gaffes". Every single word the SPLC or ADL has in their collections of Pat Buchanan's greatest un-PC quotes were well thought-out and reasoned statements that Pat will readily defend.
Pat has managed to maintain his visibility because of his post-establishment credentials. When Joe Six-Pack hears someone say "Pat Buchanan is a Nazi", his first response is "I've heard him on TV for the last twenty years and I haven't heard anything like that".
Unfortunately someone with less name recognition—even a senior editor at National Review [Peter Brimelow says: hey!] or an award winning editorial writer at the Washington Times—runs afoul of the PC Right and Left, they can easily be silenced and marginalized (at least before the advent of the internet.)
Because there is no one nearly as prominent with anything like Pat's views, he has become a hero to many disparate causes: Southern Heritage advocates, Paleoconservatives and paleolibertarians, conservative economic nationalists and non-interventionists, traditionalist Catholics, patriotic immigration reformers etc.
Working at Pat's non-profit, The American Cause, I truly have come to appreciate just how much people expect from him. Every day, we get calls and e-mails wondering why Pat won't support this candidate, speak at this meeting, why he said this or wouldn't write that. The truth is that he is what he is; and unfortunately he cannot be all things to all people. In a saner world, there would be many more people with views like Pat's in high places. But there is only one of him.
There is only one Pat, and we need to appreciate him for what he is. I quite literally believe that no living American has done more for Western Civilization.
Hundreds of years from now, when the history is written of this odd time in which the West openly cleared the way to its own destruction, the Bill Buckleys and the Bill Kristols will be long forgotten.
But whether the historians are Japanese, scratching their heads about what happened to a once-great country, or—God willing—scholars in a healthy American nation, looking back at our era as a youthful indiscretion, Pat Buchanan will be remembered the lone voice of sanity in a nation driven mad.
Marcus Epstein [send him mail] is the founder of the Robert A Taft Club and the executive director of the The American Cause and Team America PAC. A selection of his articles can be seen here. The views he expresses are his own.