Is Buchanan more influential than Reagan in the run-up to 2016?

I have a lot of respect of Pat Buchanan as a man.  He has unique insights on things, and he is someone who will speak his mind rather than get along for the purpose of getting along.  In contrast to the  “tell it like is” Donald Trump, Pat Buchanan has been remarkably consistent over the years.  While Trump and Buchanan competed against each other for the Presidential nomination of the Reform Party in 2000, Trump has apparently embraced Pat’s 2000 agenda for Trump’s 2016 Republican run.

There was a time when Pat Buchanan was considered a conservative Republican.  It is unclear whether he either conservative or Republican at this point,  However, the Buchanan departures from conservative orthodoxies seem to be attracting a lot of fired up an enthusiastic supporters for Donald Trump in 2015.

There are three main issues on which Buchanan over the years diverged from the positions of Reagan.  Those three issues are: (1) trade; (2) immigration; and (3) national defense.  With respect to (1) and (2) in particular, it is clear that a majority of conservatives are closer to Buchanan than Reagan on these issues.  I never really linked Buchanan to tea party voters in the past, but after reading some polls of self identified tea party people, I think that the tea party movement and the forces of conservatism in 2015 are more influenced by Pat Buchanan than Ronald Reagan.  This is true even though virtually all candidates and their supporters invoke the name of Ronald Reagan, while virtually no one invokes the name Pat Buchanan.


NAFTA was the result of Reagan’s vision.

Long-Standing Support for Free Trade with Mexico. Ronald Reagan first proposed a free trade agreement between the U.S. and Mexico in his 1980 presidential campaign. Since that time, The Heritage Foundation is proud of the role it has played in articulating President Reagan’s vision of free trade in Latin America and around the world. Since the mid-1980s, Heritage analysts have been stressing that a free trade agreement with Mexico not only will stimulate economic growth in the U.S., but will make Mexico a more stable and prosperous country. Heritage has published over three dozen studies stressing the benefits of free trade in North America.

While both Reagan and the tea party are considered to be conservative, self-identified tea party members embody more Pat Buchanan and less Ronald Reagan when it comes to the issue of trade.  A self-identified member of the tea party is less likely to support free trade than the average American at large.  This departure from Reagan orthodoxy was true in 2010, and was evident in 2015 during the TPA debate.

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows that 69 percent of Americans believe free trade agreements with other countries have cost jobs in the United States, while just 18 percent believe they have created jobs. A 53 percent majority—up from 46 percent three years ago and 30 percent in 1999—believes that trade agreements have hurt the nation overall.

Moreover, that rising skepticism extends across the political spectrum—a sign that continued trade expansion may be no easier for Republican leaders to promote if they regain control of Congress than it has been for Democrats.

While 65 percent of union members say free trade has hurt the U.S., so do 61 percent of Tea Party sympathizers. Democratic pollster Peter Hart and his Republican counterpart Bill McInturff, who conduct the NBC/WSJ poll, say the greatest shift against free trade has come among relatively affluent Americans, or those earning more than $75,000 a year.

That sentiment represents an obstacle for leaders of American business—who favor trade expansion—and for President Obama. His administration has made export expansion a key element of his economic strategy and is pushing, albeit belatedly, to complete a new trade deal with South Korea later this year.


Ronald Reagan viewed the American dream as its most important export.  Reagan wanted to stop illegal immigration, but he didn’t want to reduce legal immigration.  Nor did he want to build a wall between Mexico and the US.   The building of a wall along the US-Mexican border was a proposal by Pat Buchanan in 1996.

From the standpoint of controlling the border, the Simpson-Mazzolli Act was a unfortunately an utter failure.  In the early 80’s illegal immigration was an important issue, but it is a far more substantial concern in 2015 than it was during Reagan’s presidency.  For many right of center voters, illegal immigration is the most important issue–more important than even the repeal of Obamacare.  Majority Leader Canter lost a primary as a result of his perceived pro-amnesty leanings.

Nobody can know for sure what Reagan would have though about immigration policy in 2015.  Would Reagan eventually have come around to the building of a wall along the border?  Who knows?

What I can say is the following:

Despite what politicians and their supporters may say (i.e. Ronald Reagan is referenced at least 100 times for every reference to Pat Buchanan), the tea party and the American conservative movement is more heavily influenced by Pat Buchanan than Ronald Reagan.  Trump’s rise in the polls makes this conclusion even more obvious.

It is Pat Buchanan’s ideas and not the ideas of Ronald Reagan that are driving the political movement known as conservatism.  Moreover, it seems undeniable to me that Pat Buchanan’s influence on the tea party is far more substantial than the influence of Ronald Reagan.


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