I have to say at the beginning of my review that while I don't always agree with Pat Buchanan's prescriptions, his descriptions of what's going on in America tend to be highly accurate and significant. Even if you disagree with Pat's assessment of the trends he chronicles in "Suicide of a Superpower," his passionate portrayal of these trends should be provocative and enlightening for both his critics and his allies.
What Pat presents are undeniable trends that are in the process of radically transforming America. It's up to us to debate whether these radical changes are good or bad, but we should thank Pat Buchanan for bringing so many of them together all in one place, and for helping to connect the dots to see how they all relate. We all know that these dramatic changes are provoking a series of crises: we'll all be better prepared to deal with these crises if we know what we're up against. What we'll all have to decide is if we want a Christian nation with the moral, economic, and social fruit of such a culture, or whether we want a more relativistic, socialistic, and atheistic nation.
Pat begins in his Introduction with a warning from Soviet Russia: that America is no longer truly a nation, which he defines as "a people of a common ancestry, culture, and language who worship the same God, revere the same heroes, cherish the same history, celebrate the same holidays, [and] share the same music, poetry, art, literature." Pat's thesis is clear throughout the book: America is disintegrating before our eyes. "What happened to the country we grew up in?" It's a question that I, as someone born in 1960 and someone who shares Pat's Christian beliefs, can identify with.
Pat begins his argument in Chapter 1 with an economic argument. I heartily agree with his assessment that our debt is a huge problem and that we have, unfortunately, become a "food stamp nation." I also share his misgivings about the role of The Fed in leading to a weakening of the American economy. However, while I agree that China is an economic threat, I don't completely buy Pat's negative assessment of globalization. In "Suicide of a Superpower," because Pat covers so many topics, he doesn't have to make an extended argument, for example, for his view of globalization. The most important statement Pat makes in Chapter 1 is that "the failure of our system is rooted in a societal failure."
Pat turns to "The Death of Christian America" in Chapter 2. Like it or not, this is the root of all of the momentous changes in America in the past several decades. Whether you hate or love the loss of the Christian identity of America, this transformation is the cause of all the others: to a large degree religion creates culture. It's clear from what Pat writes here and what others have written elsewhere that America saw herself as a distinctly Christian nation until recent decades. In Chapter 2, Pat gives but some of the many measures of how we are now much less a Christian nation, from the prayers at Obama's inauguration to the relative collapse of evangelical Christianity to the disintegration of The Episcopal Church. Pat then gives some measure of how the "death of God has blown up our decent and civil society." The loss of a Christian American identity has not only created many social ills but has also precipitated what have been called the "culture wars." I teach a class on Worldviews, in which I try to help my students see precisely the kinds of connections Pat makes for us. Most Americans only deal with individual issues about which they have feelings and are unable to articulate the theology and philosophy that are the foundations of their beliefs. Once again, Pat leaves us with a powerful and succinct summary of the point he's making: "the cycle is inescapable: when the faith dies, the culture dies, the civilization dies, and the people die."
Chapter 3 gives us a close up of the Crisis in Catholicism, as one particular measure of the increasing impotence of Christianity in America. This includes not only the disbelief of American Catholics and the decline in the numbers of priests, nuns, etc. but also the cultural bias so many have against Catholics. My sense is that this is because Roman Catholics are the biggest, most prominent church - and because abortion is such a high-order issue for many atheists and nominal Christians.
In Chapter 4, Pat deals with The End of White America. He presents some attention-getting statistics from the New York Times: "whites would become a minority in 2042 and would fall to 46 percent of the population by 2050, comprising only 38 percent of U.S. population under 18." I can see the growth of the Hispanic population in the U.S. as a potentially positive thing. After all, as Philip Jenkins points out in "The Next Christendom," Hispanics are often devout Roman Catholics. But some of the facts that Pat presents has made me have to reconsider what the growth of illegitimacy, the allegiance of many Hispanics to Mexico, and other factors means for America's future.
Read Chapters 5-10 for yourself: they are necessary ingredients for understanding why Pat Buchanan and others fear the ultimate disintegration of America as we've known it. The push for equality of outcome, the cult of diversity, a nation that doesn't replenish its population and other disintegrating forces all lend strong support to Pat's overall thesis.
I'm fast running out of room in my review, so let skip to a discussion of Chapter 11, in which Pat discusses our "Last Chance." While I think Pat wastes too much time at the beginning rehashing some of the problems we face, he finally gets down to a potential solution. He starts with putting the nation's finances back in order, and I agree. This is an issue that has broad-based support, and if we don't solve this problem soon we may not survive long enough to deal with some of the cultural issues. Next, Pat recommends dismantling the American empire. For most of my adult life, I've been in favor of most of America's wars, but more recently I've had to re-think my position. While it's scary to contemplate a world without American intervention, it may, in the end, make us stronger and not weaker. I heartily agree with his proposal to downsize the state, and I think others are starting to agree. But, unfortunately, I think we're all so addicted to government handouts that we'll never have representatives who will vote for smaller government. Instead, I'm afraid that an economic catastrophe will force our hand.
Pat's final note is a weak one. I agree with him that we should reclaim a Christian culture and traditional religion and morality. However, Pat offers no real advice on how we can do this! If he's right (and I think he is) that culture follows religion, then he should have offered more advice on precisely this point.
In spite of a number of limitations I've mentioned, "Suicide of a Superpower" is a provocative, important, and well-written prophesy of where America seems to be headed.
Buchanan presents his argument in the following 11 chapters:
1. The Passing of a Superpower
2. The Death of Christian America
3. The Crisis of Catholicism
4. The End of White America
5. Demographic Winter
6. Equality or Freedom?
7. The Diversity Cult
8. The Triumph of Tribalism
9. "The White Party"
10. The Long Retreat
11. The Last Chance