Pat Buchanan’s Prescient Warning About the Culture War
On Aug. 17, 1992, Patrick J. Buchanan addressed the Republican National Convention in Houston after losing the party’s nomination to incumbent President George H. W. Bush. Buchanan was gracious in defeat — praising the incumbent president for his heroic service in World War II and his steadfast commitment to issues that conservative Republicans could unite behind. But the most memorable part of Buchanan’s speech was his description of the then incipient culture war as a “war . . . for the soul of America.”
In his speech, Buchanan talked about small-town “family values” that were under attack by the forces of the Left. He denounced “environmental extremists who put birds, rats and insects ahead of families, workers, and jobs.” He warned of “radical feminists” and liberal activists who sought to undermine the values of traditional marriage and the nuclear family. The Left’s cultural warriors, he said, demand a “litmus test for the Supreme Court” — a test that favors abortion rights and discrimination against religion.
The culture war, Buchanan said, “is about who we are . . . what we believe and what we stand for as Americans.” It is, he said, about the sanctity of innocent human life, voluntary prayer in public schools — it is about “beliefs, convictions, our hopes and our dreams.”
Law and order critical to culture
The culture war, he explained, is also about law and order. And here, Buchanan touched on an aspect of the culture war that is front and center today. He spoke about the Los Angeles riots that followed the apprehension and arrest of Rodney King. He mentioned the burnings and destruction in Koreatown. He mentioned mobs looting and burning, and called it the “worst riot in American history.”
And then Buchanan lauded the courage and heroism of the forces who restored order — the troopers of the 18th Cavalry “who had come to save the city of Los Angeles.” He recalled one incident where the mob was on its way to ransack and terrorize a convalescent home for the elderly. “The troopers came up the street, M-16s at the ready,” he said. “And the mob threatened and cursed, but the mob retreated because it had met the one thing that could stop it: force, rooted in justice, and backed by moral courage.” The forces of order, he said, “took back the streets of Los Angeles, block by block . . .”
Current culture supports the protests
Today, the mobs are at it again in Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, and other cities — burning, looting, assaulting police and other citizens. But the forces of order are mostly absent, are mostly silent. They are mostly absent and silent because conservatives lost the culture war a long time ago. The American culture — the media, Hollywood, business moguls, sports figures, artists, entertainers — mostly support the mob. Worse, many liberal and leftist mayors and governors and district attorneys also support the mob. The Left’s culture warriors of the 1960s over time successfully infiltrated the institutions of American society, including those institutions that command the police and the military. We are watching the tragic results on the streets of some of our major cities.
Buchanan misnamed the phenomenon he described in that memorable speech. What was happening then and what is happening today is not so much a war as a cultural revolution led by ideological movements that want to destroy the American capitalist system and replace it with their version of a socialist utopia, just as they wanted to do in the 1960s. Today’s cultural Marxists seek to rewrite history and silence opposition. They pull down statues and burn Bibles and insist that everyone accede to their demands. These tactics are not new to history — the Jacobins of the French Revolution and the Red Guards of the Chinese Cultural Revolution would recognize them.
Buchanan closed his speech with a stirring call to “take back our cities, and take back our culture, and take back our country.” But for the most part, the speech fell on deaf ears. What Pat Buchanan called the culture war was only being waged by one side — the Left — and that side won.