Opinion » Letter From The Editor

We’re All in Kansas Now



I was struck last weekend by a Twitter thread from GOP presidential candidate Joe Walsh. Yes, there is a Republican seeking to challenge President Trump for his party's nomination, but he's tilting at windmills, since the GOP establishment has already eliminated primaries in many states in order to protect Trump's incumbency.

Walsh reported that he walked a line of Trump supporters outside the president's Iowa rally last week, trying to convince them to consider his candidacy. Here's what he wrote:

"Plenty of Trump supporters were angry at me and many got in my face. But here's what made me sad: I asked about 40 folks a very simple question: Has Donald Trump ever lied to the American people? Every single person said 'No.' Trump has never lied. Every single person gave me that answer. But that wasn't all. A few people told me that Trump, unlike Obama, has never golfed. Nobody in line knew that Trump was increasing the debt way faster than Obama. Nobody knew that under Trump our deficit was now greater than $1 trillion. Nobody I asked could think of one single thing that Trump has done that has disappointed them. Nobody thought Trump did anything wrong with Ukraine.


"Almost everyone thought that China was paying for Trump's tariffs. Nobody cared that Russia screwed with our 2016 election. On and on it went. I left sad and frustrated because all of these folks in line were being fed a sea of lies by Trump, Fox News, and the rest of Trump's media sycophants. ... They didn't believe basic truths."

Anyone so far down in the Foxhole that they don't think Trump ever golfs is pretty much beyond saving. Facts truly don't matter to them. Trump is perfect, godlike. It was Obama who golfed, not our magnificent president!

After the president's much-mocked tweet congratulating "the Great State of Kansas" for the Kansas City Chiefs' Super Bowl victory, the usual Fox pundits lined up to rally the troops. Maybe the snooty liberal coastal elites don't realize there is a Kansas City, Kansas, they snickered. There are Chiefs fans in Kansas, too, they snorted. Silly snowflakes! Remember when Obama said there were 57 states?

Seriously, is it really that hard to just say the president goofed? Must he be utterly without fault, a flawless golden Superman? This level of intentional ignorance — and the amplifying of said ignorance by right-wing media — is terrifying.

If it makes you feel any better, none of this is new. There is a thread of know-nothing-ness that has woven itself through American history, usually driven by xenophobia and politicians who seek to exploit it. There was even a major political party that surfaced around the time of the Civil War that called itself the "Know Nothings." I went down that Google wormhole so you wouldn't have to:

"The Know Nothing party, formally known as the Native American Party and the American Party, was a far-right nativist political party and movement that operated nationwide in the mid-1850s. It was primarily an anti-Catholic, anti-immigration, and xenophobic movement, originally starting as a secret society. Adherents to the movement were to simply reply 'I know nothing' when asked about its specifics by outsiders."

Shorter version: The Know Nothing party was anti-Catholic, anti-immigration, and sought to keep America white and protestant. Sound familiar? Same as it ever was.

But if you really want to get your mind blown, see if you can guess the author of the following:

"I am not a Know Nothing — that is certain. How could I be? How can anyone who abhors the oppression of negroes be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that 'all men are created equal.' We now practically read it as 'all men are created equal, except negroes.' When the Know Nothings get control, it will read 'all men are created equal, except negroes and foreigners and Catholics.' When it comes to that, I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy."

That was soon-to-be President Abraham Lincoln writing to a friend in 1855. Does history repeat itself? Nearly 165 years later, it would appear so. Let's hope America survives this latest round of Know Nothings.

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