“Know Nothings” Could Deliver Clinton Vs. Trump

by James M. WallDonald Trump Campaigns In Grand Rapids

As the nation enters 2016 in search of a new president, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton seems certain to derail Bernie Sanders while anti-immigrant Republican candidate Donald Trump is expected to recover quickly even if he loses the Iowa Republican caucus, February 1 and the New Hampshire Republican primary, February 9.

The South Carolina Republican primary is next on February 20.  After that, the nation will experience a series of primaries, caucuses, and endorsements, that will beg for our attention even though the Trump versus Clinton outcome, at this point in time, appears a foregone conclusion.

It is precisely at a this point where the enthusiasts for good government. as it should be practiced, must not lose hope. Bernie Sanders may catch enough momentum with a New Hampshire victory to pose a threat to Clinton.

Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush may break through to stop TrumpDon’t lose hope until the summer conventions. Or as we say in my business, the Lord works in mysterious ways.

The Republican Convention will be held at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, July 18-21. The Democrats will gather July 25-28 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

Not a promising sign for good government as it should be practiced. The names of the two convention sites celebrate the true religion of the nation and its political structures: Big Money.

Quicken Loans and Wells Fargo embody what the U.S. Supreme Court codified in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, granting corporate contributions unfettered access to political candidates.

Unless the voters rebel and determine a different path, Big Money will dictate which two candidates are named.

The national media, meanwhile, has to keep advertising dollars flowing through their coverage of the dual national horse races that will continue week after week after week.

It will get ugly. Trump has promised, for example, that Bill Clinton’s conduct that led to his impeachment proceedings, will be fair game. The Clintons will fight back with whatever mud they are currently planning to toss.

Trump’s possible losses in Iowa and New Hampshire will make the remaining dual national horse races good media fodder.

His possible losses will not slow his bullying brand of media manipulation. Trump’s solid core of supporters thrives on hating the national media for its treatment of their leader.

This dismal scenario is how 2016 looks to this observer of U.S. politics, and I find it enormously depressing. I fervently hope I am wrong.

I first tipped a tentative toe into the treacherous active political waters in the 1972 campaign, 44 years ago in two races, first, as a George McGovern-pledged candidate for convention delegate from Illinois, and second, as a Democratic congressional candidate in Illinois’ 14th district.

I won the delegate race and became McGovern’s Illinois delegation chairman. I lost, big time, the race for Congress. After those campaigns, I returned to the quieter life of writer and editor for religious publications, where politics cried out for some degree of ethical comment. 

The practice of politics and its importance to the life of all God’s children, from Monroe, Georgia, to Ramallah, Palestine, became a passion which has kept me inordinately tuned into these quadrennial presidential electoral events, and to the impact they have on the moral issues of our time.

Could Clinton lose to Donald Trump November 8? Anything is possible in politics, which is why Trump must be examined very carefully, much deeper, and far beyond the daily media reports we are fed on snippets of his vulgarity and verbal excesses.

Trump 101 must get us ready for what, at this moment, looks like a Clinton versus Trump general election race. With a month to go before Iowa voters gather in homes and other meeting sites to raise their hands for their preferred candidate February 1, Trumps brags that he is leading in the polls in Iowa.

His focus on polls suggests he is not thinking of the usual “get out the vote” effort in Iowa or, for that matter, in New Hampshire on primary day February 9. This may be why he could lose both races. 

Emotion must be corralled and organized, especially in a caucus.

Writing in the New Yorker, John Cassidy asks if Trump is a fascist.  

Cassidy points to many analysts who see Trump as a 21st-century fascist, evoking negative images of Hitler and Mussolini. Cassidy rejects that charge, insisting that Trump is not a Fascist. So what is he?

For Cassidy, Donald Trump is at the center of “a media-savvy Know-Nothing” 21st- century movement.

130615-004-957C4B10-1In the 1840s, that movement “originated as secret societies of white Anglo-Saxon Protestants angered by an influx of immigrants, particularly Irish Roman Catholics who were crossing the Atlantic to flee poverty and find work in the rapidly industrializing U.S. economy”.

Cassidy elaborates:

“The Know-Nothings got their name because, when asked about their clandestine activities, they often said, ‘I know nothing.’ Fearful of popery, liquor, and big-city political machines that harvested the votes of new arrivals, they called for restrictions on immigration, the closure of saloons, and a ban on foreign-born people holding public office. ‘Americans must rule America,’ they said”.

Listening to Trump as he stirs up hatred against Mexican immigrants in his campaign, it is obvious that he is not worried about what the national media thinks about his bigoted nativist insistence that “native born” US citizens are superior to immigrants. He is relying on the strand of nativism that is deeply embedded in the American psyche.

He uses the media to preach his nativism. Cassidy concludes his essay that makes the case that Trump is a modern-day Know Nothing, writing:

“Of course, the genuine Fascists were pretty effective at using the media, too: that was one of the things that made them so dangerous. Trump, for reasons that historians have rightly emphasized, shouldn’t be compared to a Goebbels or a Mussolini on this front. But, in the six months since he launched his campaign, he has revived the Know-Nothing movement, plumbed new depths of divisive rhetoric, and established himself as a shameless demagogue.”

This much we do know: Trump may not be a fascist, but the Know Nothing movement is alive and well in our 2016 political life.

It hardly seems possible that an anti-Catholic nativist movement could be gaining so much modern ground as Trump’s poll numbers suggest is the case.

We will get our first clue on the strength of the Know Nothings among us after Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Meanwhile, fasten your seat belts, 2016 is certain to be a bumpy ride.

The picture above of Donald Trump by Scott Olson, was taken in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It appeared in the New Yorker and is a Getty Photo. The portrait further down is that of a young man representing the nativist ideal of the Know-Nothing Party. The portrait is from the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall writings.me, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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5 Responses to “Know Nothings” Could Deliver Clinton Vs. Trump

  1. Jack Graham says:

    Ted Cruz is not a natural born citizen, because he was not born in the United States or on territory subject to the jurisdiction of Congress, so he is constitutionally ineligible to become President. I don’t like the provision that requires the President to be a natural born citizen, but it remains in the Constitution. We cannot do without constitutional government which is our only safeguard against anarchy.

    Jeb Bush signed the charter statement of the Project for a New American Century which led the parade into Iraq, and stands as a prime suspect behind the tragedy of 9/11, as appears from their own publications. The Democrats have not put up an acceptable alternative, such as Elizabeth Warren. Donald Trump was the candidate who broke up the plan of the major media to give us a meaningless choice between Jeb and Hillary in 2016, and we have to thank him for that much. And compared to Marine Le Pen, who may well become the next President of France, Trump is very moderate.

    I would prefer somebody else, but Trump is better than Hillary or Jeb who offer us nothing accept obedience to the expectations of the Council on Foreign Relations. Nobody owns Trump. And Netanyahu does not like him. If we should hope for an alternative to Trump, or to a choice between Hillary and Jeb, we should reconsider Dr. Ben Carson who is the most accomplished and independent of all available options. — John Remington Graham of the Minnesota Bar (#3664X)

  2. Fred says:

    The big money people will choose who run in our oligarchy. Only Bernie Sanders offers the hope of some major changes. The big money people will do all in their power to destroy any chance of that. None of the Republican candidates are any good. Thy are all warmongers and servants of Israeli billionaires, and so is Hillary. Either will be another disaster for the US.

    Only getting big money out of politics will put a damper on the Oligarchy we live in.

  3. scottnwdc says:

    Your take on Trump seems uncharacteristically one dimensional, especially for someone who writes largely about foreign policy. He is clearly the least militaristic of GOP candidates, the least linked to neoconservativism, the only opponent of the Iraq war, the only one who refused to pass every Israel lobby litmus test, who doesn’t want to risk blowing up the world over Vladimir Putin.

    You must realize this, especially in contrast to Cruz or the disappointing Jeb (whom I thought might want to show more independence from his brother and advisors). And all your angst about immigrants. Is enforcing America’s immigration laws really so terrible? Or is the only point to replace America’s traditional majority as quickly as possible, because those who replace it, especially if they are poor, will obviously be such a great improvement! I too prefer Sanders to Hillary, and volunteered for Obama in the last two elections.

  4. wallwritings says:

    Regarding Jack Graham’s comment above, I must disagree with my colleague. A discussion in PoliticoFact (http://bit.ly/1D2RB5g), makes a persuasive case that Republican Candidate Ted Cruz will not be barred from serving as President. It is true that he was born in Canada, but his mother was born in the United States. His father is Cuban-born. Cruz has consistently made the case that he is eligible. No opponent has yet raised the issue against him. The issue may be raised in the course of the campaign but based on the case presented by PolitcioFact, above, Cruz is unlikely to be barred from serving as President. Jim Wall

  5. Roy Hayes says:

    I wish Rand Paul were more like his father. Ron made a video recently in which he argues that NEOCONs are America’s greatest domestic threat.

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