PATRICK BUCHANAN already has achieved a remarkable victory in the New Hampshire primary. It will stand no matter what the vote spread.
He could not have done it alone. He had the help of American journalists and politicians.
Still, it cannot be taken away from Mr. Buchanan that he not only has introduced anti-Semitism into the mainstream of American politics, but has made it acceptable, respectable enough to ignore -- and potentially profitable.
In New Hampshire, the press paid only fleeting attention to his anti-Semitism. That was better than President Bush and the Democrats, who paid none.
Political bigots everywhere will correctly draw the lessons. And they had better be learned by all people who consider Mr. Buchanan just one more politician, all politicians who failed to condemn his cracks about Jews and "Zulus" and those journalists who ran from confrontation with their good old pal.
They had better learn damned quick before they hear the bell tolling too close to their ears.
Mr. Buchanan now has earned close attention as a political propagandist. For years he will be using his new prominence, and his regular TV appearances and column to recast American conservatism in his particular mixture of populism and religious and racial divisiveness.
If he succeeds, it will change the texture of American life.
But he is just as important as a vivid example of the increasing social and political acceptability of racism and bigotry in the intellectual and political life of the country.
For years now it is has been there to see and smell -- in anti-Semitic speeches at campus rallies, in college ads denying the Holocaust, in violently bigoted pop and rap lyrics sold to millions and clear except to music critics who left their brains in the piano stool, in TV air time given to skinheads to vilify blacks.
Now we come to the point where a presidential candidate's record of carefully crafted insults is hardly even discussed during the campaign.
The responsibility for this phenomenon does not rest simply on the bigots -- what else did we expect? It rests on blacks who participate in or ignore anti-Semitism, on whites who get all upset when blacks get even a few of the special, essential breaks in life that they themselves always enjoyed.
It rests on those journalistic friends -- and TV partners -- of Mr. Buchanan who tell us he really is a charming fellow even if he talks a little too bluntly.
It rests on people like William Buckley, who agree now that Mr. Buchanan did after all say anti-Semitic things but then tell us they would vote for him in New Hampshire as a message to Mr. Bush.
What message? Anti-Semitism is less offensive than raising taxes?
With a few staunch exceptions, Washington columnists and commentators looked straight at Mr. Buchanan's statements and innuendos -- looked, and ran.
They stayed friends and admirers right through his trashing of Holocaust truth, through his irritation of Catholic-Jewish sensibilities, through his cracks about how Congress was Israeli-occupied territory and Democrats the poodles of the Israeli lobby.
These Washington experts needed no translation: The Israeli lobby gets its money and votes not from Jerusalem but from American Jews legally and morally supporting a cause close to them.
The cesspool was plumbed when Mr. Buchanan said in August 1990 that only the Israeli Defense Ministry and its "amen corner" in the U.S. were beating the war drums.
That was a lie -- a lie, and as plain a piece of deliberate evil as ever uttered on TV. It meant watch out, the Jews are trying to drag your children into war for foreign purposes. From the Beltway, came the sound of silence.
Top politicians matched journalists in courage. Mr. Bush never suggests, heavens no, that Mr. Buchanan's anti-Semitism might be at least one reason to vote against him.
And not one of the five candidates of the other party thought Mr. Buchanan's anti-Semitism an issue worth mentioning. These people -- they are Democrats?
So the victory is Mr. Buchanan's, the respectable, acceptable, charming Pat Buchanan's.
What's more, he has refused to withdraw, retract or soften his anti-Semitic insults. Please note. This man is keeping his powder dry.