Tuesday, July 11, 2017

It Did not Start with Sergeant Schultz

By Bob Ferris

As I sort through this recent Pew study that looks at Republican and Democratic views on a variety of issues I am struck by three factors that are interrelated: Religion, Media and Higher Education.  I am disturbed by the Democratic numbers on these issues but truly terrified by the Republican.  There is a political echo here because we have seen this all before with minor alterations in the 1850s.  Then it was first known at the Native American Party which was re-designated the American Party.  But most knew it because of the response party members gave when asked about their group: I know nothing.

From Pew Study

The so-called Know Nothing Party preached hate and demonized immigrants.  In their case it was the dreaded “Romanists” or the Roman Catholics that  were the target of their disdain mainly those coming from Ireland and Germany who were "taking jobs" and perverting belief systems.  The Know Nothings pushed for true American and traditional religious values that they felt were in jeopardy.  

The semi-secret party backed a weak presidential candidate named Millard Fillmore who campaigned early in his career as an anti-Masonic candidate.  The irony of being backed by a secret society when you campaigned against a secret society seems oddly like being anti-immigration when you are the son on an immigrant and have married two immigrants. But politics is not always driven by truth and logic.

The Know Nothing Party did not last long.  Its demise was the result of weak national leadership in spite of strong local efforts.  There are many lessons to be learned here and also hope.  My sense is that we have yet to snap our fingers loud enough to release many from this destructive hypnotic trance.  Republican should also look to the history of the Whig Party once exposed to this died soon after.  But we must, because we cannot be a world leader if higher education and media are our enemies and we accept too readily what we are told by those who would control us. 

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