OK

1985-2000. Such a treasure trove of material. The Iran-Contra case, which a Congress with teeth could have done a lot with, and all the people Popsy Bush pardoned as soon as he took office. Who it was that actually brought an end to the Cold War, and a cover of Time that identifies Mikhail Gorbachev as the Man of the decade (the 1980s). The very limited Gulf War. Clinton's difficult first two years and even more difficult next six years. Newt Gingrich and the Contract for/with/on America. The Starr Report. Romer v. Evans and its importance. An impeachment, a trial in the Senate, and some disgraced members of the impeaching party.

But seriously. Can anything really compare with the amazingly outrageous speech Pat Buchanan gave at the 1992 Republican National Convention? If you look at it carefully, what it did, absolutely in hindsight, was set the agenda for which enemy would replace Communism now that the Cold War had ended. And JUST like the early 1950s the target was mostly the LGBT community.

(Be aware that once we get past my 35th birthday [in 1984] I don't really have lecture notes, so this is me remembering life now)

Of course, George Herbert Walker Bush was the incumbent president, and his renomination was never really in doubt, but because he had raised taxes despite having famously said

Read my lips. No new taxes!
during his 1998 campaign and then raised them to address problems with the economy in 1990, the conservative wing of the party was less than happy with the prospect. So as a symbolic gesture, the bigoted reactionary conservative columnist Pat Buchanan ran against Bush in a number of primaries. Here's the first part of his biography from townhall.com:
Patrick J. Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three American Presidents. From 1966 through 1974, Pat Buchanan was confidant and assistant to Richard Nixon. In 1974, Pat Buchanan served as assistant to Gerald Ford. From 1985 to 1987, Pat Buchanan was White House Communications Director for Ronald Reagan.
And, in the 33 primaries he ran to the right of G.H.W. Bush in, he accumulated somewhere around 3,000,000 votes. That got him on the podium of the 1992 Convention in prime time to give the keynote speech. What he DID in that speech set the tone for much of what's coming out of the far right even today.

It's boilerplate for the first two minutes, and then this, about the 1992 Democratic National Convention:

I watched that giant masquerade ball up at Madison Square Garden, where 20,000 liberals and radicals came dressed up as moderates and centrists in the greatest single exhibition of cross-dressing in American political history.
Of course, the Democrats have no moderates and centrists, but that would be of a meme nature. Cross-dressing, on the other hand, gives you a hint where this might go.

Next, there's the "they hate America" part, because they spoke ill of St. Ronnie. But the defense is a history of omission and semi-truths. Here are the foreign policy achievements of Ronald Reagan's presidency:

First, Grenada was liberated by U.S. airborne troops of the U.S. Marine Corps. Then, the mighty Red Army was driven out of Afghanistan with American weapons. And then in Nicaragua, that squalid Marxist regime was forced to hold free elections by Ronald Reagan's Contra army, and the Communists were thrown out of power. Fellow Americans you ought to remember, it was under our Party that the Berlin Wall came down and Europe was reunited. It was under our Party that the Soviet Empire collapsed, and the captive nations broke free.
No mention of the events in Lebanon that  caused the "liberation" of Grenada, which wasn't a threat anyway. No mention of the fact that Daniel Ortega came to us first before he looked to Cuba for help, and asking and receiving help from a Marxist doesn't make YOU a Marxist. And about the Cold War:
When TIME honors Gorbachev for the events that brought the demolition of the Berlin wall and the restoration of Russia, you can pretty much guess that Reagan's part in ending the war (because he said "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall") wasn't, well, as major. Besides, Ronald Reagan made us feel good about America. That's basically enough for ol' Pat. And, yes, George Bush "presided over the liberation of Eastern Europe too." So now on to the trashing of the Democratic candidate.

Oh, my.

Bill Clinton couldn't find 150 words to discuss foreign policy in an acceptance speech that lasted almost an hour.
Maybe because "IT'S THE ECONOMY, STUPID!" And the "bully pulpit"? Bob Casey of Pennsylvania  "was told there was no room for him at the podium" because he is opposed to abortion. I'll let Brendan Nyhan cover that one:
In fact, the campaign officials who made the decision said Casey was denied a speaking slot because he hadn't endorsed the Clinton-Gore ticket. Media Matters further points out that anti-abortion speakers have repeatedly been given the opportunity to speak at Democratic conventions. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Sens. John Breaux (D-LA) and Howell Heflin (D-AL), and five other governors who opposed abortion rights did address the convention in 1992, as detailed in a September 16, 1996, article in The New Republic on the Casey myth.
Inconvenient for THAT meme, but true.

And then it begins:

Yet -- Yet a militant leader of the homosexual rights movement could rise at that same convention and say: "Bill Clinton and Al Gore represent the most pro-lesbian and pro-gay ticket in history." And so they do. Bill Clinton says he supports "school choice" -- but only for state-run schools. Parents who send their children to Christian schools, or private schools, or Jewish schools, or Catholic schools, need not apply.
And, Pat is AGHAST that Clinton said "two for the price of one" with regard to Hillary. The net?
Friends -- Friends, this -- This, my friends -- This is radical feminism. The agenda that Clinton & Clinton would impose on America: abortion on demand, a litmus test for the Supreme Court, homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in combat units. That's change, all right. But that's not the kind of change America needs. It's not the kind of change America wants. And it's not the kind of change we can abide in a nation we still call "God's country."
Since when is there not a Republican litmus test for the Supreme Court?

We go on. Clinton the draft-dodger (no such thing as lottery numbers in Pat's world). Al Gore the environmentalist who likes birds and insects better than he likes families and workers. Teddy Kennedy, who isn't even on the ticket. Ah, well.

And why did you run, Pat? And why are you endorsing Popsy for a second term?

Yes, we disagreed with President Bush, but we stand with him for the freedom to choose religious schools, and we stand with him against the amoral idea that gay and lesbian couples should have the same standing in law as married men and women. We stand with President Bush -- We stand with President Bush for right-to-life and for voluntary prayer in the public schools. And we stand against putting our wives and daughters and sisters into combat units of the United States Army. And we stand, my -- my friends -- We also stand with President Bush in favor of the right of small towns and communities to control the raw sewage of pornography that so terribly pollutes our popular culture.
Anti-gay, anti-separation of church and state, anti-personal choice for entertainment. Why? Here is the red meat of the speech:
Friends, this election is about more than who gets what. It is about who we are. It is about what we believe and what we stand for as Americans. There is a religious war going on in this country. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as the Cold War itself. For this war is for the soul of America. And in that struggle for the soul of America, Clinton & Clinton are on the other side, and George Bush is on our side. And so to the Buchanan Brigades out there, we have to come home and stand beside George Bush.
And so there has been, even if those of us on the Clinton & Clinton side have not been fighting it as vigorously as the other side has, and to what avail?

The rest of the speech has him remembering the campaign trail, and it's typical except for one VERY LOUD dog whistle:

And there were the brave people -- And there were the brave people of Koreatown who took the worst of those L.A. riots, but still live the family values we treasure, and who still deeply believe in the American dream.
Friends, in these wonderful -- In these wonderful 25 weeks of our campaign, the saddest days were the days of that riot in L.A., the worst riot in American history. But out of that awful tragedy can come a message of hope. Hours after that riot ended, I went down to the Army compound in South Los Angeles, where I met the troopers of the 18th Cavalry who had come to save the city of Los Angeles. An officer of the 18th Cav said, "Mr. Buchanan, I want you to talk to a couple of our troopers. And I went over and I met these young fellows. They couldn't have been 20 years old. They could not have been 20 years old. And they recounted their story.

They had come into Los Angeles late in the evening of the second day, and the rioting was still going on. And two of them walked up a dark street, where the mob had burned and looted every single building on the block but one, a convalescent home for the aged. And the mob was headed in, to ransack and loot the apartments of the terrified old men and women inside. The troopers came up the street, M-16s at the ready. 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

Worst riot in American history? If you DON'T remember, the jury in Simi Valley came back with an acquittal of the four policemen on April 29, 1992, and a six-day riot ensued. I remember it well, since it came far enough up Vermont Avenue so if you lived further up near Griffith Park, as we did, you could smell the smoke when you went outside. More people died in the New York City Draft riots in 1863 (at least 120) than the 53 who were killed in the 1992 LA riots, but again, inconvenient. He ends with the National Guard "boys" taking back the streets of Los Angeles from the unnamed and unidentified African-American and Mexican-American rioters one by one.

Now, of course, political conventions get into a lot of us vs. them material because that's what they're for. But this speech is something he could have written for Nixon to pit the silent majority against the hippie draft dodgers. Anti-gay, anti-choice, pro-school prayer, anti-protecting the environment, anti-anyone who disagrees with Buchanan.

Reactions? Here's Philip Gourevitch in the New Yorker on the 2012 Republican campaign (9/3/12), discussing what Mitt Romney could do about Todd Akin:

After the 1992 Convention, the columnist Molly Ivins wrote that Pat Buchanan’s speech “probably sounded better in the original German.” And many observers later blamed Buchanan for scaring off centrist and swing voters, and contributing to Bush’s defeat.
He also observes that
the culture war that Buchanan trumpeted is no longer an insurgent cause but a permanent condition of the Republican Party, and, increasingly, it is being fought within the Party.
We still have to be vigilant, but after the 2012 election, and the results from Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington, we know that the tide is turning against the forces Buchanan tried to muster in 1992.

There will be one more of these next week, since my textbook now goes up to 2012. I'm pretty sure what will annoy me most will be when I have to talk about Hurricane Katrina. Then I think I'll resume after NN13 with some more general material on the issues we encounter when we "do" history.

5:41 PM PT: Thanks, Community Spotlight. That was quick!

Originally posted to History for Kossacks on Fri May 17, 2013 at 04:15 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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