Donald Trump is no Know-Nothing

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In the early 1850s, members of the nativist American Party were dubbed “Know Nothings” because they’d insist they knew nothing about their anti-Catholic political agenda. Donald Trump has no such compunctions.

In recent days, the real estate mogul has advocated closing mosques, entertained a database for all Muslims in the U.S. , and called for a ban on Muslims seeking entry to the country. He claims he’s the reincarnation of Franklin Delano Roosevelt for doing so. After the Great Wall of Trump, will the next deal be the Trump Internment Towers?

The good news is that his latest exercise in nativism has forced his fellow aspirants for the Republican presidential nomination to stand up for Muslims. Marco Rubio described his immigration proposal as “offensive and outlandish.” Carly Fiorina said it would violate the Constitution, as did Ben Carson. 

Jeb Bush tweeted that Trump is “unhinged.” Lindsey Graham called called him “a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot.” Fellow also-rans Christie and Pataki and Gilmore piled on. Even mini-Trump Ted Cruz declared, “I do not agree with his proposals. I do not think it is the right solution.”

It could be argued, of course, that Trump has merely made it possible for his rivals to sound reasonable as they seize the best chance they’ve had to kill off his double-digit-leading candidacy. I’d like to believe that he has awakened them to the perils of religious demagoguery.

It’s worth recalling that the Know-Nothings arose as a movement of disaffected white Protestants — “native Americans” who with some reason felt that the economic deck was stacked against them and that the two-party system of the day was corrupt and dysfunctional. In the midterm elections of 1854, they swept to victory in many states, taking out their anger against recent Catholic immigrants from Ireland and Germany.

In my own state of Connecticut, where Know-Nothings captured the governorship and a majority of seats in the General Assembly, six Irish companies in the state militia were disbanded and legislation was passed that targeted the recent immigrants by increasing the period of residence for naturalization from five to 21 years and requiring literacy tests to vote.

Trump’s appeal to the disaffected native Americans of our day harks back not only to the Know-Nothings but also to 19th-century campaigns against Mormons and Asians, anti-German and anti-Japanese policies in World Wars I and II, and the Red Scares of the 1920s and 1950s. In other words, it could happen again.

  • samuel johnston

    Nut cases like Trump aside, the situation we find ourselves in today is quite different. The people who the Know-Nothings were opposed to were not memebers of any group that even had a nut wing that was the acting and declared enemy of the U.S. In addition, Islam is not really a universal religion. Like Judaism, it is a tribal religion. Unlike Judaism, it seeks to subdue the world to the “will” of their God. Their purpose of existence is to worship God. Their God is an egomaniac who only wants slaves. “Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith.…no stronger retrograde force exists in the world.” (Winston Churchill 1899).
    I do not claim to know the solution, but it really is different from your historical illustration.

  • drwho13
  • Jack

    Trump is Trump. He wants to be the eternal center of attention and for now, he’s got it.

    To discuss his belief system seriously is like asking what is Daffy Duck’s view of the Keynesian v. Austrian schools of economics.

  • drwho13

    Holocaust: A Learning Site for Students”
    “Hitler Comes to Power”

    “…Germans lacked confidence in their weak government, known as the Weimar Republic. These conditions provided the chance for the rise of a new leader, Adolf Hitler…”

    “Hitler was a powerful and spellbinding speaker who attracted a wide following of Germans desperate for change. He promised the disenchanted a better life and a new and glorious Germany. The Nazis appealed especially to the unemployed, young people, and members of the lower middle class (small store owners, office employees, craftsmen, and farmers).”

    Germans lacked confidence in their weak government (fear that Obama is not protecting US citizens), appeal to lower middle class (non college educated Americans), promised the disenchanted a better life and a new and glorious Germany (make America great again), a powerful and spellbinding speaker.

    Does anyone else see the parallel?

  • drwho13
  • drwho13

    “‘Trump’s not wrong – we can’t wear uniform in our OWN cars’: Five police officers claim Donald Trump is RIGHT about parts of London being so ‘radicalised’ they are no-go areas.”

    “Trump’s appeal to the disaffected native Americans of our day harks back not only to the Know-Nothings but also to 19th-century campaigns against Mormons and Asians, anti-German and anti-Japanese policies in World Wars I and II, and the Red Scares of the 1920s and 1950s. In other words, it could happen again” (Silk).

    Panic can cause human beings to behave irrationally (whether it’s in the 19th or the 21th century). My opinion is that it will take genetic engineering to change human behavior. Until then, stand-by Trump just went up in the polls!

  • Jack

    No. Trump is not a spell-binding speaker but a buffoonish entertainer.

  • Sabelotodo2

    Trump represents one awful extreme of Know-Nothingism, and his following is proof that you don’t have to know much to have a gut reaction to that other awful extreme put forth by the gods of political correctness, who bully questioning individuals into silence in the name of instant acceptance and non-judgmental-feel-goodism..

    As with most things, the reality is somewhere in the middle where we get to ask some tough questions. We don’t need to ban all Muslims in order to ask where someone is coming from, literally with would-be immigrants, and philosophically, in terms of loyalties to the US and our ideals.