Banging the drum and leading the charge against immigrants is a tried and tested tactic in U.S. politics that most people assumed had been buried in the modern era of multicultural America.
They couldn't have been more wrong.
President Trump is basing his re-election and midterm elections pitch directly on the old nativist war cry. Instead of the Irish being demonized it is Hispanics. Somebody must be blamed.
Do not for a second underestimate the impact of the racist pitch. America has a long history of listening to the likes of Joe McCarthy and Father Charles Coughlin, all pitching the same message of fear of the outsider. (Ironically, Coughlin was Canadian.)
The battle for the hearts and minds of America has never been more critical than it is today. Alas, the Republican Party has swallowed whole the demonization diktat spread by Trump, and one can only imagine what Abraham Lincoln, a founder of Trump’s party would think.
Back in the 1840s, the Know-Nothing movement was a precursor of what we are seeing today. They based their policy on a hatred of Catholicism and Irish and German immigrants.
Post-famine Irish flooded into America at the rate of 20,000 per month. Not unlike today’s refugees at the border, they were dirt poor, uneducated and at immediate risk from the Know Nothings, who was an outgrowth of the old Whig Party. Many later joined the new Republican Party.
Their main target was the Irish and especially the Catholic Church. They attacked old St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York intending to burn it to the ground but the church was saved by, among others, armed men from the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
The Irish also had a magnificent defender, Archbishop John “Dagger” Hughes who stood firm against the tide of anti-Catholic and Irish hatred and provided invaluable leadership at a vital time.
Still, even he could not protect all Irish Catholics. Bloody Monday in Louisville, Kentucky was August 5, 1855.
It was also Election Day. The Know Nothings were determined the Irish would not vote. They attacked the Irish quarter and set ablaze the houses.
Up to 100 Irish were burned to death. Those who tried to escape burning buildings were shot down by waiting snipers.
To his eternal credit Abraham Lincoln, though the head of a party that covered up for the Know Nothings, refused to be part of them and spoke out forcefully that if Irish were excluded, who knew who was next.
The contrast with Trump's behavior is astonishing. Now we have the president of the United States blackening immigrants as “invaders” and “infesting” America.
The saddest part about it is that many Americans appear to have fallen for the fake outrage.
The reality is that border crossings have been slowing down every year since 2000 when they peaked. The reality is that no different from the Irish fleeing Famine and hard times, the Latino immigrants seeking asylum are fleeing murderous gangs and appalling violence in their own countries.
No, there cannot be unlimited access to America, and no one is seriously disputing that, but there is meaning to the American Constitution and the words inscribed on Lady Liberty that we need to show tolerance, not cheap political opportunism aimed at the weakest among us.
The crying children in the detention centers will be Trump’s true legacy in history. America is better than that.
Do you agree? Let us know in the comments section, below.