Wednesday, June 15, 2016

we've seen this before, almost

There are dark pages in American history in addition to the stories about slavery and the mistreatment of those called Indians by the invading settlers.

-- We've seen a repressive federal government deny basic civil liberties to dissenters -- in 1798 with the Alien and Sedition Acts and in 1919-20 during the Red Scare.

-- We've seen the rise of political movements based on the hatred of people who were different -- the Know Nothings in the 1850s, the Ku Klux Klan both during Reconstruction and in the 1920s, and the anti-immigration activists who got laws barring Chinese and Japanese immigration as well as the 1924 law aimed at Jews, Italians, and others from southern and eastern Europe.

-- We've seen powerful movements promoting an isolationist foreign policy -- notably the America First groups in the 1930s.

-- We've seen successful political demagogues, though mostly contained to localized power -- racist Senators like "Pitchfork Ben" Tillman and Theodore Bilbo, more recently Huey Long and  George Wallace.

But never before have we had this perfect storm of a skilled demagogue capturing a major political party with proposals of ethnic and religious repression, rejection of basic rule of law principles, and a crazy passive-aggressive foreign policy that threatens everybody and promises to punish America's allies.

Never before.

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