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How the right-wing nurtured a ‘dark’ movement of ‘white male resentment’ long before Donald Trump

How the right-wing nurtured a ‘dark’ movement of ‘white male resentment’ long before Donald Trump
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How the right-wing nurtured a ‘dark’ movement of ‘white male resentment’ long before Donald Trump

Countless articles by Never Trump conservatives have lamented the demise of Reagan conservatism and Goldwater conservatism in the Republican Party. Such articles often long for the days when Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill could have major policy disagreements while maintaining a cordial relationship — or how now-President Joe Biden, during his decades in the U.S. Senate, could work out bipartisan bills with conservative GOP senators like John McCain and Bob Dole.

Yet according to journalist Nicole Hemmer, there was a dark side of the GOP long before Donald Trump, in 2015, announced that he would be running for president in the 2016 election. In a think piece published by The Atlantic on September 19, Hemmer stresses that parts of the Republican Party had MAGA-like qualities well before Trump’s presidency.

Hemmer recalls that in 1992’s presidential election, two candidates challenged President George H.W. Bush on the right: Ross Perot and Patrick Buchanan. While Perot didn’t run as a Republican, Buchanan took on Bush 41 in a GOP presidential primary — and Hemmer obviously considers Buchanan the darker of those two candidates and a much greater influence on Trump and the MAGA movement. Hemmer describes Perot’s campaign as one of “flexible, heterodox politics” rather than “hard-right reactionary politics.”

READ MORE: How Patrick Buchanan’s 1992 campaign became the blueprint for Trumpism: conservative

“Buchanan, a former communications director in the Reagan White House and a popular television personality, felt unconstrained by party orthodoxies,” Hemmer explains. “He had long professed his belief that the ‘biggest vacuum in American politics today is to the right of Ronald Reagan,’ and he set out to prove that in his 1992 campaign for the Republican nomination. He ran well to the right of Bush, not just taking hardline positions on issues such as immigration — he called for a ‘Buchanan fence’ at the border — and affirmative action, but also, resurrecting themes of the Old Right of the 1930s and ’40s: a closed, cramped vision of an America that needed to be protected from foreign trade, foreign people, and foreign entanglements. He carried out an ‘America First’ campaign that argued against U.S. involvement abroad and denounced free-trade deals such as the newly negotiated North American Free Trade Agreement.”

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