In an emerald turtleneck and a union jacket, Pat Buchanan plunged into his two adopted cultures on Sunday, knocking back a beer at a St. Patrick’s Day parade and softening a long-held view on strikers’ rights at the urging of organized labor.
He might be genealogically more German than Irish, and historically more scold than ally to labor, but Buchanan tried to set aside such incongruities on Sunday, visiting a union hall in the morning and parading with union members in the afternoon.
“It’s just an overwhelming Irish Democrat area,” Buchanan said, as he ambled up Western Avenue, occasionally waving his shillelagh and doffing his plaid cap. “They’re good Irish folks, they probably agree with me on a lot, and they’ve disagreed with me in the past.”
Some still disagreed. “Kiss Me I’m Irish,” read one sign, “and Buchanan’s a Bigot.” Buchanan was booed along much of the parade route. To obscene gestures flashed repeatedly from one balcony, he returned only a broad grin and a wave.
Some in the crowd said that Buchanan faced an insurmountable hurdle: He was a Republican marching through Chicago’s overwhelmingly Democratic South Side, right past the 19th Ward Democratic headquarters.
“He’s got courage coming here, but I don’t think anybody’ll be impressed,” said Mari Anne Wolf, a housewife.
Stressing his concern for working people, Buchanan has been asking Democrats here, in Ohio and in Michigan to cross over and vote for him in primaries on Tuesday. But as Sunday’s events demonstrated, it is an uphill struggle.
On Sunday morning, Buchanan visited Local 150 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, the workers who operate heavy machinery. From the union hall, Buchanan appeared on the ABC News program “This Week” and declared that he would rethink his opposition to legislation considered critical by organized labor.
“I think that we Republicans ought to take a look at our position,” Buchanan said, “and not contribute anything that increases the economic insecurity of working men and women in this country.”
He was referring to the strikerreplacement bill, which would keep companies from permanently replacing workers who strike because of economic concerns.
Although the local’s president, William E. Dugan, stopped short of endorsing Buchanan, he said that the Republicans could easily break the Democrats’ hold on labor. He added, “This concept of labor’s jumping aboard just because a person’s a Democrat - I think those days are over.”
Buchanan’s positions on issues like gun control appeal to working people, added Dugan, whose office was decorated with the head of a stuffed giraffe - with about seven feet of neck - that he had shot in Botswana.
But Buchanan had trouble winning over even Irish-American Republicans on Sunday. Before the parade, from behind the bar at the Summer West Beeftsro, Buchanan handed Marge Mullarkey, a Republican, a soft drink and a green carnation. But Mullarkey confided that she would vote for Sen. Bob Dole because she thought he had a better chance of becoming president. Buchanan, she said, “would be elected in a few years, not now.”
As Buchanan emerged from behind the bar, he assured Bob Lille, a plumber and union member, that he was considering supporting the striker-replacement legislation. “You back us on that, we’ll back you 1,000 percent,” Lille said.
But as Buchanan moved on, beer in hand, Lille admitted that he would never support a Republican. “I’ve supported Democrats my whole life,” he said.