A Possible Parallel?

It’s always dangerous to draw parallels between past phenomenons and current ones–contrary to the old saying, the past really doesn’t repeat itself.

But still.

I was intrigued by an article examining the rise and demise of the Know Nothing Party in the most recent issue of “Religion and Politics,” a political science journal. The Know Nothing Party (KNP) was launched in 1851, and it was dead by 1862. It was rooted in the Nativist movement, and was profoundly anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic and xenophobic.

The authors propose three theories for the sudden rise of the KNP: moral panic (a collective response to social change–a spontaneous “panic” propelled by social stress);  a conflictual cultural cycle (persistent cultural patterns that emerge periodically in response to the sudden visibility of ‘out groups’); and something with which I was previously unfamiliar–Revitalization Theory (religiously motivated movements of discontented persons who want to change the culture.)

The authors concluded that there were elements of all three at work. They noted that–as with all such movements–the KNP looked to a (fantasized) pristine past that they wanted to restore.

Shades of “I want my country back.”

About those parallels….a recent Bloomberg poll found that Tea Party Republicans are “more likely to be male, less financially secure, more pessimistic about the direction of the country and much more antagonistic to President Obama.” The poll notes “anger and alienation” by the GOP rank-and-file, based in part on considerable amounts of misinformation. (Thanks, Faux News…) For example

Two thirds of regular Republicans believe the federal deficit has grown this year, and 93 percent of Tea Party Republicans agree. Both are wrong: the budget deficit is projected to fall this year from 1.1 trillion to 642 billion.

To the extent that we can draw parallels between the KNP and the GOP fringe today, the more pertinent question addressed by the article is: what happened? Why did the KNP have such a short life span?

The article pointed to several factors: internal dissension, newly recruited political figures who were inexperienced and incompetent, rowdyism and sporadic violence by some of the “fringe of the fringe” and ultimately, a recognition that their objectives were simply unachievable.

Food for thought. And hope….


  1. “The Know Nothing Party (KNP)”

    Shame on you. If you were in the History Department, you couldn’t write such a dishonest statement as a student in a 200-level class, let alone as a faculty member.

    The party was called the American Party. A journalist hated the party and invented a statement from one of its members, claiming the person said “I know nothing.”

    For good reason, the Hate America Party (HAP) earns a similar name. When leaving a Democratic Party function, a member was asked “Why are you a Democrat,” to which the member said “Because I hate America.” To this day, the Democrats are known as the Hate Americas.

    Cheap journalistic slurs are nothing new, and journalism is not primary historical material.

    It is unquestioned that immigration since 1964 has left this country weaker, less intelligent and more crime ridden.

    Further, source your materials correctly. Tea Party members are drawn from the successful and truly American demographics.

    “Several polls have been conducted on the demographics of the movement. Though the various polls sometimes turn up slightly different results, they tend to show that Tea Party supporters tend more likely than Americans overall to be white, male, married, older than 45, regularly attending religious services, conservative, and to be more wealthy and have more education.”

    http://www.ask.com/wiki/Tea_Party_movement?o=2801&qsrc=999&ad=doubleDown&an=apn&ap=ask.com (Citations included)

    A peaceable, successful, clean, harmonious, intelligent country can more easily be built from Tea Party members than from the demographics that eschew it.

  2. This bit of historical revisionism and hatespeech brought to you by American and his backers at FreedomWorks.

  3. Now that proves there is a parallel universe! It also shows that the claim: You can lead a horse to water….The facts are out there. Especially today. Facts don’t mean a thing to the mind of America. They know what they know because they know it!

  4. American, please give us the citations for the Hate America Party and the Hate Americas. I’ve never heard of this before and the only thing I found on Google were cites that said Tea Party members hate America. Why you write anonymously? Aren’t you proud of your views?

  5. Excellent comments, Sheila, renewing consciousness (not weird rant) about important historical events so that, perhaps, we can actually learn from them so we don’t have to relive them. There is an unhealthy tendency toward revisionism (see Mr. “American”, above) or to simply be ahistorical.

    America’s insulting attitude reminds me of the time I saw some truly ignorant people insulting a well-known neurologist for his medical opinion, saying that he was “just saying it for the money”. He just smiled.

  6. Our world has a long history of stupid people with holy books spoiling life for others. It matters little which holy book or which country is the victim. Stupidity and Racism are the primary problems in America today. Thanks to the Right wing TV & Radio people filling peoples heads with False info for 30 years, it will be hard to get things back on track. I REALLY fear another Bush / Clinton battle in ’16. How about a nice SANE safe contest for a better America. No Minority bashing. No more “God told me to run” Just move the contry forward for all of the PEOPLE. Not the corporations. This is going to be rough to do. Get involved.

  7. Patmcc, wouldn’t you just love to see a presidential contest where it would be a struggle to decide which one you really wanted to for, rather than having to cut through fakery, managed personalities and ideological nonsense? On the other hand, I guess people have wanted that since Adams ran against Jefferson. I suspect that we will be using Politifact.com and snopes.com for quite some time.

  8. The 2016 presidential election: how about dueling pistols at thirty paces. If we see a traditional vote where one cancels the other out, would the result be a “Dead” heat. They could roll up their shirtsleeves and satisfy the second amendment right to “Bare Arms”

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