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Know Nothing Donald

Like many people early in the election season, I underestimated the support for Donald Trump’s presidential bid. Then Trump began to rack up delegates and force more mainstream candidates out of the race. I realized his isolationist, anti-immigrant message was striking a chord with many more people that I had been willing to accept.

Trump’s campaign has been compared to the rise of fascism in Europe before World War II, bolstered by Trump’s retweets of Neo-Nazis and Benito Mussolini himself. Much of Trump’s onstage demeanor is comparable to Mussolini. The crowds at his rallies chant “Trump! Trump! Trump!” in unison, evoking the atmosphere of a Hitler rally.

Comparing Trump to Hitler can be problematic. Trump has no plans for world domination and prefers economic isolationism. Nor would he get away with building concentration camps, even if he wanted to. He’d be too busy deporting immigrants and building a wall on the Mexican border. I doubt he will even be able to get those done.

It turns out, we don’t need to look to early Twentieth Century Europe to find a comparable time in history. We can find it here in the US in the decade before the civil war. I heard historian Kathleen Frydl explain it in a radio interview. She was talking about the the Know-Nothings. Officially, they were called the American Party that rose after the dissolution of the Whigs. Know-Nothings were notable for scapegoating immigrants, then mostly Irish and Catholic. Meanwhile, the country drifted to civil war, unable to resolve the issue of slavery.

I really enjoyed Frydl’s analysis and read her article in the Huffington Post. I was familiar with the Know-Nothings. My late housemate was a history buff who had a special interest in the Whigs. He joked that William Henry Harrison was our greatest president because, by dying of pneumonia one month into his term, he was not able to do anything terrible.

Not long after reading Frydl’s article, I read the news of Trump’s appearance on CNN’s State of the Union. He was being questioned about the endorsements he was getting from David Duke and white supremacists. Trump’s response was “I don’t know anything about David Duke, okay? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists.” I realized how correct Frydl turned out to be. Donald Trump is a Know-Nothing. I occasionally use the hashtag #KnowNothingDonald when I see more examples of Trump’s Know-Nothing-ism. Some examples:

Trump appeared to connect Ted Cruz’s father with Lee Harvey Oswald. When confronted, he again deflected by saying he didn’t know anything about Cruz’s father.

At a rally, he told the audience that they would not be able to do anything once President Hillary Clinton begins appointing justices. He adds that “second amendment people” might find a way to do something about it, quickly followed with “I don’t know.”

When Clinton came down with a case of pneumonia, which is a lot more curable now than in Harrison’s time, Trump responded on Fox News. ”I hope she gets well soon. I don’t know what’s going on,” Trump said. “The coughing fit was a week ago — I assume that was pneumonia also.”

Today, Trump bashes immigrants, especially Mexicans, and Muslims. Ask him about global warming, and he replies it is a hoax. Just as the Know-Nothings did in the Nineteenth Century, Trump bashes immigrants, while not dealing with the serious issues that we confront in the Twenty-first Century. Let’s hope the story doesn’t have the same tragic ending.

Know Nothing politicians won’t take responsibility for the actions of the people they provoke. That for me, is the most disturbing part. They send coded messages to their supporters, called the Dog Whistle. I will write more about that later. Before that, I would like to address Trump and civil rights. Stay tuned.

See Kathleen Frydl’s article in the Huffington Post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathleen-frydl/donald-trump-and-the-know_b_8314110.html

Also, 2016 Republicans: A “Know Nothing” party for the 21st Century by Mark DeLucia in Salon:

http://www.salon.com/2016/07/31/2016_republicans_a_know_nothing_party_for_the_21st_century/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=socialflow

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September 22, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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