Rally at the ramparts

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON -- New Hampshire's primary has defined the Republican Party's most pressing task, that of self-defense against Pat Buchanan's redefinition of it. Mr. Buchanan, the brawling barkeep from the Bowery of American politics, mixes a cocktail of resentments and ignorance unmatched since George Wallace went marauding.

Governor Wallace, whose program was to pitch into the Potomac the briefcases of pointy-headed bureaucrats, was agreeably free of the pretense of intellect. Mr. Buchanan, whose protectionism is to serious economics as creationism (another of Mr. Buchanan's superstitions) is to biology, solemnly says he is a protectionist the way the Founders were, and that free trade ruined Britain.


He should be reminded that antipathy to Britain's restrictions on the colonies' trade helped precipitate the Declaration of Independence, which denounced King George for "cutting off our trade with all parts of the world." America's 18th- and 19th-century protectionism had the excuse that, before the income tax, tariffs, together with land sales, were the government's principal sources of revenues. Protectionism then usually was defended as necessary for "infant industries."

In the name of "working people," Mr. Buchanan would protect everyone, from flower growers to textile barons, including mature, even senescent enterprises. But as columnist Robert Samuelson notes, domestic competition (Intel and Microsoft against IBM, Wal-Mart and Home Depot against Sears) has done much more than foreign competition to rearrange American jobs.


Scourge of Wall Street

Mr. Buchanan preens as scourge of corporate America, but he should know that protection is almost invariably the result of corporate avarice. And the reason he opposes the World Trade Organization -- lost "sovereignty" -- should make him opposed to almost all treaties. Almost all involve reciprocal limits on the signatory nations.

Regarding Mr. Buchanan's eccentric interpretation of British history, Britain's steel industry gained "temporary" protection in to save jobs. So, inefficient producers survived, efficient ones made exorbitant profits, British industries dependent on steel became less competitive, the steel industry's anemia became an excuse to nationalize it, making it a drain on taxpayers until it was privatized. By then vast sums had been squandered, and more jobs had disappeared than would have if the industry had never sought escape from competition.

Mr. Buchanan's candidacy has drawn Bob Dole into emulative nonsense, such as: "Corporate profits are setting records and so are corporate layoffs." Wrong twice. Profits as a percentage of sales were 50 percent higher in the 1960s. And 1995's layoffs were 29 percent below 1993's and were the lowest since 1990. In 1983 the average job tenure of male workers ages 45-54 was 13 years. In 1993 it was 12 years, hardly a sea change.

Time was when Americans savored freedom's uncertainties and considered "security" an unworthy goal for free people. But in New Hampshire Senator Dole unveiled the syntactically dreadful "Four Freedoms of Economic Security." Freedom of security?

Whoever wrote that for Mr. Dole wrote this, too: "As president, I would ensure that America keeps her wealth, and the jobs that go with it, here at home." That promise defies exegesis. No investment abroad? Mr. Dole's impenetrability illustrates Orwell's axiom that insincerity is the enemy of clarity.

The senator's watery Buchananism, treating economic security as a right, validates the core of contemporary liberalism, which is compassion, understood as government preventing pain. Its catechism is: Change is painful; capitalist dynamism means change; therefore capitalism is morally suspect and government has a limitless commission to temper capitalism's wind to shorn lambs, as liberalism regards citizens.

Mr. Buchanan, if nominated, would make the Republican Party incoherent and, given the Democrats' corner on the compassion market, redundant. Domestically, his multiculturalism-of-the-right would ratify that of the left. He partakes of the left's groupthink and identity politics, which considers individuals primarily emanations of racial or ethnic groups.


When he says America has failed to "assimilate" African-Americans into "our society," when he asks "Who speaks for the Euro-Americans who founded the U.S.A.?" and when he says it is time "to take America back," he clearly envisions taking it back from groups whose citizenship he evidently considers problematic in "our" society. He can profess, but we should not feel, puzzlement about neo-Nazis' enthusiasm for him, or about his campaign co-chairman being comfortable in their presence.

Mesmerized by the chimera of economic security achieved by autarky, and obsessed with cultural purity achieved by racial immigration policies favoring those groups denoted by the pronoun "our" -- "our society" -- Mr. Buchanan radiates hostility not only against American reality but even more against American ideals. Senator Dole, the pre-eminent Republican, now has a duty to do what does not come naturally to him -- fight over first principles. Only by doing so can he win, or deserve to.

George F. Will is a syndicated columnist.