In the 1990s, Pat Buchanan’s Republican presidential bids were strongly supported by many conservative Christians. The man who would found Blackwater USA was donating money to PJB, Walter Jones, and Ron Paul. When the Weekly Standard wanted to intervene militarily in Bosnia, Bill Kristol recalls “a not insignificant chunk of our original subscribers immediately canceled out on us.” The well-funded magazine published editorials telling congressional Republicans to ignore “the conservative street.” Congressional Republicans did not oblige. Opposition to the the Kosovo war was a mainstream position among conservative columnists and, more importantly, their readers. As late as 2000, George W. Bush felt the need to promise a “humble foreign policy” and oppose “nation building.”
Things are different now. Perhaps foremost among them is this: Millions of people who were in the Buchanan brigades in the 1990s are in the Bush brigades today. There are many obvious reasons for this: the 9/11 terrorist attacks, partisanship, the paucity of successors to PJB who have his credibility with grassroots conservatives, the Jacksonian nationalism of the paleo right’s “MAR” social base.
The $1 trillion question is this: Was there anything paleo-ish conservatives could have done to have retained these people’s support and is there anything that can be done to win them back? Not is there anything that could have been different about the people in the Buchanan brigades, not is there any criticism that our critics shouldn’t have leveled, not is there any money people could have donated to paleo institutions. Let’s focus on the one area that is actually under our control: Is there anything paleo types could have said, done, or written that might have made a difference or could still do to once again have some popular influence?
Maybe the answer is no. But it seems a worthwhile question to ask.