Author indicts feminism, moral decay and multiculturalism for our woes

The Death of the West
By Patrick J. Buchanan St. Martin’s Press,
320 pages, $38.95In a recent issue of National Review, John O’Sullivan argued that successful conservative parties draw upon three constituencies: economic and small-government conservatives, moral traditionalists, and patriotic nationalists. Since multiculturalism and Third World immigration have become sacred cows in the Western world, conservatives lost election after election in the 1990s because they were afraid to appeal to one-third of their natural supporters. Paleo-conservative pundit and perennial U.S. presidential candidate Pat Buchanan’s latest book, The Death of the West, might best be read as an attempt – and not a bad one, at that – to bridge the gap between right-of-centre nationalists and their conservative brethren, and create a unifying theme for conservatives: we must protect Western civilization before it’s too late.

The thesis of the book is relatively straightforward: white Americans and Europeans are becoming an aging, “endangered species” thanks to low birth rates, and both the United States and Europe are being flooded with immigrants who have no desire to assimilate into Western society. The students who applauded Bill Clinton’s 1998 speech in which he predicted a day when Europeans will become a racial minority in the United States are going to find out the hard way what “diversity” is all about, writes Buchanan, “for they will spend their golden years in a Third World country.”

Buchanan warns economic conservatives the Reagan coalition of Northern Catholics and Southern white Protestants, has been slowly diluted by Third World immigrants who want their share of government programs. More bluntly: “Why should immigrants support a Republican party that cuts taxes they don’t pay over a Democratic party that will expand the programs on which they do depend?”

The book’s appeal to moral conservatives is a bit different. Buchanan tells them the abortion debate is about much more than saving unborn lives, as “the rise of feminism spells the death of the nation and the end of the West.” Birth rates have plummeted, notes Buchanan sadly, in part because of the widespread availability of abortion and contraception; 40 million abortions have been performed in the United States since Roe v. Wade, and 30 per cent of American pregnancies end in abortion. At the same time, thanks to feminism, high taxes and the post-industrial economy, fewer women are choosing to stay home and raise children. Increasingly, the nuclear family is being replaced by the “non-family,” according to political scientist James Kurth.

The Death of the West is a brave, well-written book, and Buchanan ought to be commended for asking troubling questions which most conservatives would much rather avoid, just so the public can read yet another op-ed on the dangers of farm subsidies. Even if they disagree with Buchanan on many points, conservatives who read this book will get angry in places and ask, “How did we let this happen?”

Still, Death of the West has a few weaknesses, the most fundamental being Buchanan’s inability to see that multiculturalism is for the most part a myth, and immigrant children do in fact assimilate into the dominant culture. If he were to visit any high school these days, he would find students of all races wearing the same clothes, listening to the same mind-numbing hip-hop, and discussing such intellectual fare as the television show Temptation Island.

For that matter, couldn’t non-Western immigration bring benefits to conservatives? If Buchanan really wants to put an end to the death-culture of abortion and euthanasia, wouldn’t a large population of socially-conservative American Muslims (70 per cent of whom voted for George W. Bush in 2002) be a blessing for moral conservatives?

Similarly, the American Enterprise’s Ben Watten-berg has criticized Buchanan for demonizing Mexican immigrants (Buchanan focuses a great deal of attention on the kooky MEChA movement, and writes: “Mexicans not only come from another culture, but millions are of another race. History and experience teach us that different races are far more difficult to assimilate”) when they are predominantly Catholic, Spanish-speaking, and very much “Western.” One could also ask if Buchanan is ready to re-think his staunch opposition to free trade; if he wishes to end Third World immigration, surely the most effective way of doing so would be to lift developing countries out of poverty, and free trade is arguably the Third World’s best hope of doing so.

Furthermore, Buchanan is bang-on when he discusses the political left’s demoralizing effect on the culture-at-large, but does it really matter if the Confederate flag flies atop the Florida statehouse, or that children no longer know the words to “Dixie?” At times, Death of the West seems to read like a collection of Buchanan’s culturally-themed columns over the past several years instead of a clear, focused argument.

Nit-picking aside, The Death of the West deserves to be read, if only for the long-overdue debate it should raise about issues such as immigration, the importance of Western culture, and the poisonous legacy of feminism. For moral conservatives, Buchanan’s book offers an interesting challenge; by adopting his death-of-the-West arguments, moral conservatives could open themselves up to charges of racism from the left, yet simultaneously reach out to millions of middle-of-the-road voters who at the moment are unable to view the debates over abortion, gay rights and euthanasia in a larger context. Put another way, moral conservatives may wish to adopt parts of Buchanan’s message, yet avoid being too closely tied to the messenger himself.

Eli Schuster, a frequent contributor to The Interim, has a masters degree in international relations from York University.