Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Real Undead

Maryland Public Television, as reported by Media Matters, has announced

on August 12 that it will relaunch The McLaughlin Group in the Maryland and Washington, D.C., area in September. MPT also plans to expand the program nationally in January 2020 “through an agreement with American Public Television.” The program was briefly relaunched last year on WJLA, Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s D.C. station. The weekly program will feature host Tom Rogan and panelists Buchanan, Eleanor Clift, and Clarence Page, as well as guest panelists. Clift, Page, and Buchanan were panelists on the original McLaughlin Group, which was hosted by the late John McLaughlin.

This displeases Media Matters considerably, as it doesCharlie Pierce, who remarks

At a time in which white-supremacy and outright racism is pouring out of the White House, and a time in which these forces are literally getting people killed, a public television station has decided to roll back the stone and bring back Pat Buchanan, who is responsible more than most people for injecting this poison into the body politic generally and into the Republican Party in particular.

As MM notes, Buchanan is a "white supremacist" though more accurately a Christian supremacist, with a Catholic emphasis.  Buchanan was the forerunner to Donald Trump, as Pierce explains

You can trace many of the horrors of our current moment—from new-wave protectionism to un-camouflaged racism—all the way back to Buchanan's campaign against George H.W. Bush. (Bill Clinton once told me and Mark Warren of this magazine that he thought the Buchanan campaign was the moment in which the GOP decided to lose its mind.)  

Unfortunately, Pierce then gleans the wrong lesson when he concludes

Now, with all of these issues at a serious flashpoint, these public-television dopes decide to give Buchanan, who is somewhere between 80 and 400 years old, and who's never been sure that the right side won World War II, another crack at spreading aged-in-the-wood venom on TV. Clift and Page should not be a part of this fiasco, either. The conservative Undead never will leave us.

Who else is somewhere between 80 and 400 years old (aside from Joe Biden)? That would be the President of the United States of America, one Donald J. Trump, who also would not be sure the right side won WWII, if in fact he knew who had won World War II.

Although Buchanan has much in common with Trump, that does not include ignorance of history (or general ignorance), a preference for profanity, nor the attraction to a kind of secular and empty (and non-Catholic) Christianity.  But if not for Buchanan, there probably would not be a President (or nominee) Donald Trump, and for that alone Buchanan should rank as an important historical figure.

Maryland Public Television wants a reprise of The McLaughlin Group, impossible without at least one conservative.  It has hired, Media Matters complains, a "white supremacist who has pushed virulently racist rhetoric."

Presumably, it could have gone a different direction in selecting someone from the right. We could have gotten Charlie Sykes or someone else from the Never Trump vault. With a few exceptions here and there, though more reasonable than other conservatives, they are of a certain type.

They hate the vulgar, divisive Trump. They are tolerant of immigration, even illegal immigration, skeptical of a border wall, and can compete with every liberal and progressive in their sadness at the treatment of migrants at the border.  Same-sex marriage is perfectly acceptable, and the President's contempt for foreign allies is not.

Yet, they will not criticize the forced-birth movement, deregulation or privatization, or tax cuts for the wealthy, and the free trade which has hollowed out the core of the middle class in America's heartland remains one of their gods.

They deserve a voice, as does everyone, and are welcome to ride- but not drive- the anti-Trump bus. However, the Trump revolution (as Pierce has well expressed previously) began not with the likes of Pat Buchanan but with Ronald(6) Wilson(6) Reagan (6),  hostile to civil rights while quite congenial to the forced-birth movement and everyone and everything with economic clout.  President Donald Trump has learned well as he banishes the US Department of Agriculture to Kansas City, Mo., recognizing that most of its employees will quit, and agribusiness will have its way.

Pat Buchanan was not responsible for the devolution and destruction of government. Erosion of the belief that we owe something to us, that the mighty should use its power for the benefit of those left behind tracks back to Reagan, not to Buchanan. Still, Trump owes much to Buchanan.

Most Never Trumpers (common on not-Trump cable television) question little of the core values of modern conservatism, opposition to reproductive freedom and support of economic policies which favor the wealthy over the remainder of society. If Trump is upended in November, 2020, they will return to, or  remain in, their home base- the Republican Party- and promote the myth that the core ideals of the GOP were sound, that the Party merely had a case of pneumonia brought on by a venomous phony from New York City.

We can't bring back the late Ronald Reagan. But public television can bring back Pat Buchanan, more coherent and literate than the current President, yet also resentful and belligerent, and a reminder that Donald J. Trump didn't just come out of the blue.

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