Pat Buchanan and the Mendacity of the Response to Sonia Sotomayor
The Zeskind Fortnight No. 18
by Leonard Zeskind
The hearings are over and Sonia Sotomayor will become our newest Supreme Court Justice. Republicans have neither the votes not the will to oppose her. In Pat Buchanan’s attempt to muster an opposition to her nomination, he has been reduced to vitriol in his television commentary and lies about the military service of black soldiers. In such a situation, why should any liberal minded anti-racist pay anything more than passing attention to the grumbles bubbling out of Buchanan and the white nationalist blogosphere?
Well dear reader, it will take me more than 600 words to answer that question, but I would urge you to read on to the end.
Their websites are full of the usual “white men are victims” complaints. They contain an ugly number of “women should stay behind men” posts. On some Aryan-esque url’s, attempts to explain the ascendancy of this person of Puerto Rican descent are laced with anti-Semitic rhetoric about how “the Jews did this to us.” The Republican Party is taking a beating as well.
Perhaps the most telling moment, however, came at 12:25 p.m. on May 28 on the American Renaissance website, when “Bob” wrote, “America is no longer a White country. It is not our country.” This post was followed by others of the same character. “In 1898 [w]e acquired the Philippines and Puerto Rico–two demographic millstones around our neck…” And again, “it feels like the USA is the place where you can earn a paycheck and that is it …The USA is no longer a country; it is merely an economic zone.”
There you have it. The United States of America, in their view, was once the sole province of white people, and now it is not. This is not scapegoating or conspiracy mongering or even an incarnation of the infamous “paranoid style” in American life. It is the truth as white nationalists understand it. When Pat Buchanan told Rachel Maddow that, “this has been a country built basically by white people,” he believes it–regardless of all the contributions that people of color have made since the first time Europeans began to steal Native Indian land and bring African chattel slaves to work the cash crops of tobacco and cotton that provided the first accumulation of capital and the first formation of American banks. Even Buchanan’s Irish Catholic ancestors would not have been considered “white” when they first landed on these shores.
Nevertheless, the claim that the United States was once a “white country” is not a complete fantasy. It is rooted in Dred Scott constitutional theory; in the actual practice of racial apartheid in Jim Crow America, and the privileges and perquisites that white people maintain today.
When Pat Buchanan says that “white men were 100% of the people that wrote the Constitution,” he is simply referencing those lost days of whites-only rule, much as he has done for decades. In Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream, I described Buchanan’s political and ideological trajectory from Republican stalwart to white nationalist stand-in. In 1984, ten years before Californian’s voted on the rights of undocumented immigrants with Prop 187, Buchanan wrote that “the central objection to the present flood of illegals … is that they are not English-speaking white people from Europe; they are Spanish-speaking brown and black people from Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean.” He wondered aloud whether the United States would “remain a white nation.” He stood on that melanin-deprived platform when he ran in the Republican primaries in 1992 and 1996, and won three million votes both times.
Those voters have not gone away, and today they are largely non-partisan, more likely to be Ron Paul independents than Jeff Sessions Republicans. They are largely invisible to the naked eye, but nevertheless exert a powerful undertow on the political process. Republicans can certainly feel their pull, and the nasty questions they threw at Sonia Sotomayor were a signal to the white-ists that they were being heard. Even moderate Democrats are worried about those Buchanan-minded voters back home. They can not stop the ascendancy of this particular wise Latina from the Bronx, but her nomination has opened a window onto this white nationalist world. For no other reason than that, we should be paying attention.