The Now and Future Pat Buchanan

Did Pat Buchanan’s politics fail?  That is not a question Joseph Scotchie’s biography explicitly seeks to answer, but it is one that a reader of the book cannot help asking.  As the Reform Party’s candidate, in his third and last presidential bid, Buchanan earned less than one percent of the vote.  In his exposition of the 1992 presidential campaign, Scotchie himself asks, “Was Pat Buchanan a leader of a new movement that would transform American politics or was he just a colorful commentator out of his league . . . ?” 

Today, perhaps only die-hard political junkies remember the GOP’s 1992 New Hampshire primary, when Buchanan’s second-place showing rocked the White House and sent its occupant’s campaign consultants scurrying back to their polling data and campaign manuals.  After the polls closed, Buchanan, with a shoestring budget and a skeleton staff of mostly amateurs, had won a stunning 38 percent of the vote against George Bush, the sitting President and a former CIA director whose impeccable Republican political résumé included having been Ronald Reagan’s vice president.  Virtually the same showing in New Hampshire in 1968 by political newcomer Eugene McCarthy, an antiwar academic, drove President Lyndon Johnson out of the race altogether.

Scotchie, who is at his best recreating the essential details as well as the spirit...

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