To no one: I will tell you why I single out “Trump’s transgressions’ as you put it. Why his attitude gets under my skin.
The character of Donald Trump can only be seen clearly by means of an historical lens, not a political one. People on the site who shuffle the names of the opposing candidates like so many playing cards, don't seem to penetrate the strategy of Trumps tactics.
What interests me most are Trump’s assertions about Immigration. Trump is an extension of an old historic phenomenon – at bottom, he resembles the old rural populist like William Jennings Bryan. His remarks on based on his resentment of foreigners, the conflict between nativist Americans and their hallowed values versus the aliens who Trump sees as attempting to take over the world.
Trump’s trademark branch of thought is not new. It recapitulates American social and economic conflicts of long standing: the rural versus the city, American native pride versus the corrupt foreigners (which used to include dislike of Jews,) dislike of Catholics versus Protestants, the pure uniqueness of American civilization versus the corruption of Europe. Many of these views dueled in face to face competition for many, many years. It is my opinion that Trump is the “poster child” for this version of what has been called, “native American pride.”
For Trump, it is clear that sustaining native American pride is at stake in the coming Presidential Election. Several historians such as Hofstadter, Henry George, Oscar Handlin, and Hugh Brogan among many others, American pride is defined as nationalist, anti-foreign, and isolationist. To Trump, a contest is looming between the original Protestant Americans who made this country and created its moral order, but who are increasing feeling outdated, powerless, and left at the mercy of alien forces (such as Mexicans and Latinos.)
One of the keys to American mind at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, was the fact that American cities were filling up with small town or rural people. The whole cast of American thinking at this period was deeply affected experience of rural minds having to confront urban life with the latter’s crowding, crime, poverty, corruption, impersonality, and ethnic chaos. To the rural migrant, raised in the quietude and high-toned moral imperatives of evangelical Protestantism, the city was a threat to their old life and cherished beliefs. A prophet of the time, Josiah Strong, noted, “The first city was built by murderers, and crime and violence and wretchedness have festered in it ever since.” He warned that unless tamed, the city would result “in the downfall of western civilization.”
By the early 20th Century, Protestant Americans from small rural towns increasingly felt that they were being ignored or flouted by the foreigners. The old Yankee Protestants were caught unprepared by the swarms of Italians, Scandinavians, Germans, Irish, Chinese, Poles, Russians and East Europeans. U.S. immigration reached its peak in 1907, when a total of 1,285,000 immigrants arrived. By 1910, there were 13,345, 000 immigrants living in the United States, and the resistance to them was often violent. Foreigners were seen as unhygienic, alcoholic, insane, illiterate, ridden by crime and whose presence lowered the tone of American politics.
“We have become the world’s melting pot,” wrote Thomas E Watkins. “The scum of creation has been dumped on us. Some of our principal cities are more foreign than American. The most dangerous and corrupted hordes from the Old World have invaded us. The vice and crime that they have planted in our midst are sickening and terrifying. What brought these Goths and Vandals to our shores?”(This was written in 1885 or thereabouts.) Henry George, another prophet of the time asked, after taking in all these immigrants, immigrants, “What will we have as a dumping ground?” In no way did Americans Protestants see foreign people as being equal to themselves. They were merely objects to be manipulated or dominated, but they were not to be accepted on equal terms. Their inferiority prevented this. Anything alien or remote or any group that had ties to Europe was not trusted and was not granted a level playing field in America. (sorry for the cliché.)
But I can imagine Trump giving voice to similar views.
In other words, more and more, the Yankee Protestants were beginning to feel outnumbered, weak and lacking in political power. Basically, they were in retreat. Yet it was American Protestants had founded the nation, and they had provided the moral backbone for the country and developed it, but now the American Protestants were “uncomfortable and deeply distressed,” according Hiram Wesley Evans, who complained that in America he saw ‘a confusion of thought and opinion, a groping hesitancy abut national affairs and private life alike in sharp contrast to the clear straightforward purposes of our earlier years…” (Note: This is excellent writing.)
He went on, “We are a movement of plain people, very weak in the matter of culture, intellectual support and trained leadership. We are demanding…a return to power into the hands of the everyday, not highly cultured, not highly intellectualized, but entirely unspoiled and …American average citizens of the old stock.
“Our members and leaders are of this class – the opposition of the intellectuals and liberals who held the leadership , betrayed by American ism – is almost automatic,” he said. (1)
In his view, American Catholics were the primary objects of his group’s resentment and hatred. American Protestants yearned for purity of race and the promotion of old, proven ideals but whose integrity was directly threatened by the invading foreigners. The Protestant-Catholic rivalry assumed new forms in the early 1920s. The Protestants were for prohibition, the outlawing of the drinking of alcohol, which was a widespread practice among the Catholics. It was a contest between the “dry cause” and the “wet cause.” The Protestants backed the “dry” cause over the “wet” cause, but like so many so- called “moral" crusades in America, Prohibition managed to strengthen the enemy it had sworn to destroy. Suddenly having a drink in America became a criminal act. The Prohibition mania was made law and stood as law for the next 15 years, while the chief beneficiaries of it were not Protestants, but criminal or Jewish gangsters.
The hostility towards Catholics stayed unreformed for many years. It pays to look at the 1928 Presidential Campaign where Al Smith, a new Yorker and a Catholic, who was routed in a Presidential contest, making clear that no U.S. Catholic would ever become a U.S. President, an attitude that changed only slowly, until 1960, when John Kennedy, a Catholic, was elected to America's highest office.
President Franklin Roosevelt once announced with great joy, “America is the great mongrel nation.” And he was correct. We have become what we are, thanks to immigrants. What trump ignores is the age-old promise that immigrants were to be granted an authentic American identity just as our forefathers did, thanks to their hard work, decency and steady application. Trump withholds any such promise for Latinos or Mexicans.
So when you hear Trump braying away, keep in mind this bit of history. Trump appeals to snobbery and religious bigotry, and yet so far no one has called him out. At bottom, Trump is a conspiracy theorist. To him, it is Yankee Protestants who carry the moral and intellectual supremacy of the world. He is tapping into the long standing hatred and suspicion of the Foreigner who, in his eyes, is a monstrous, malignant growth on the body politic. He is a xenophobic jingoist who appeals the half baked and historically illiterate. Trump is unscrupulous and trades on public gullibility. One should treat him with the utmost caution.
Note: Evans founded the Klu Klux Klan, imitating the Catholic hierarchy through its Grand Wizards, Kleagels, Klabees, Cyclopses, Klaliffes, Klokards, etc. .