Ditching the Cadaver

“Republics exist only on tenure of being agitated.”

—Wendell Phillips

If anything might have transformed the presidential election of 2004 from a dull ritual of mass democracy into an interesting and perhaps even meaningful act of civic decision, it would have been the presence of Patrick J. Buchanan, whose wit and sharp conservative intelligence enlivened the elections of 1992, 1996, and 2000.  Despite his absence as a candidate this year, Mr. Buchanan rides again in his most recent book, Where the Right Went Wrong, a work obviously crafted for the current election and—supposedly—for future ones as well.

“Supposedly” is appropriate because the book’s real message is directed at the conservative base of the Republican Party and what it can and should do to recover the party and its cause after this election.  Toward the end of his book, Buchanan tells us, after recounting and analyzing what is wrong with the Bush administration,

A crunch is coming, and a civil war is going to break out inside the Republican Party along the old trench lines of the Goldwater-Rockefeller wars of the 1960s, a war for the heart and soul and future of the party for the new century.

There is no indication that Mr. Buchanan intends to be a contestant in that battle,...

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