Timothy Egan writing in The New York Times asks what would the reaction be if a leading American presidential candidate advocated an electric fence that would stop immigrants coming in from Ireland by electrocuting them.

Herman Cain, the latest name of the month in the Republican field suggested just that twice this week, not for Irish but for Mexicans coming across the border.

He said it twice after first apologizing for it.

Worse, he was cheered loudly by the Republican audience that he appeared before when he made those remarks.

The comments were disgraceful and should disqualify him from any office.

But in the topsy-turvy land of Republican politics it passes for good ideas.

Republicans have cheered Cain for such comments and Texas Governor Rick Perry for happily admitting to having executed as many death row prisoners as he could.

The strain of ‘Know Nothings’ the fear of foreigners, the dread of anything from outside has long been evident in American politics.

Its' current manifestation is scary, not because it is any different but because it is so mainstream.

Executing Mexican,s killing death row prisoners, advocating electric fences is all part of a profound fear factor among aging white people in this country.

Many shelter behind the Tea Party mantle, and find safety in numbers.

By 2041 they know the Hispanics will be in the majority in America. It scares them and they want it to go away.

But it won’t and instead of facing into and embracing change they are trying to fantasize about stopping it.

They might as well try and stop the wind.

Republican candidates have been forced to dumb down to an incredible extent to appeal to the Know Nothings.

Any sense that an issue is complex, has no easy answer and doesn’t yield to instant solutions is considered traitorous.

Watching the most recent Republican debate it is clear as day that only Romney is in any way equipped to run the country.

The rest are charlatans, cheered on by Know Nothings.

Why do I have the feeling that if I went out and grabbed the first six people I met on any street in America they would talk much more sense?

In fact I know they would.