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Monday, April 25, 2005

What is old is new again

kat ciller frist disgracing his office

Frist Urges End to Nominee Filibusters
Democrats Decry Speech at Church Rally

By Charles Babington
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 25, 2005; Page A01

Frist's comments were more moderate than those of several religious leaders headlining "Justice Sunday: Stopping the Filibuster Against People of Faith."

Charles W. Colson, head of Prison Fellowship Ministries, also appeared by videotape. He said Senate Democrats are trying to use the filibuster "to seize what they lost at the ballot box and to prevent the appointment of judges, holding the judiciary hostage." Their actions, he said, "are destroying the balance of power, which was a vital Christian contribution to the founding of our nation."

James Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family, spoke from the church's pulpit and criticized the Supreme Court, seven of whose nine members were named by Republican presidents. The court's majority, Dobson said, "are unelected and unaccountable and arrogant and imperious and determined to redesign the culture according to their own biases and values, and they're out of control."

The court's majority does not care "about the sanctity of life," he said. Pornography is a growing problem, he said, "plus this matter of judicial tyranny to people of faith, and that has to stop."

Dobson said the Senate has "six or eight very squishy Republicans" who have not committed to helping change the filibuster rule. Throughout the program, the names and phone numbers of senators scrolled across the screen, and speakers urged listeners to call and demand that the filibusters be stopped. Among the senators whose photos were shown were Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.).

Frist's role in the broadcast drew criticism.

"I think Senator Frist may have made as big a strategic political blunder in embracing Justice Sunday as he did in the Terri Schiavo case," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He was referring to Congress's effort to intercede in a brain-damaged Florida woman's case, which polls showed to be unpopular.

"The people he's dealing with are not going to rest until there's a constitutional Armageddon in which the religious right controls all three branches of government," Lynn said.

The fact that most judges are conservative and many of Clinton's moderate choices were delayed if not outright refused a vote means nothing.

Frist had no business being near this wingnut fest, given his postion. None.

Because these people want Jesus to run the US, not politicians. Bush is not serious enough for them. He speaks their language, but he isn't one of them. These people are as serious as a heart attack.

This recklessness reminds me of the rise of the Klan in the 1920's.

Nordic America Aggrieved

The Klan claimed "to speak for the great mass of Americans of old pioneer stock." Their ancestors, "hardy, adventurous and strong men and women," won a continent and created the American nation. Their "remarkable race character," passed on to their descendants, "made the inheritance of the old-stock Americans the richest ever given to a generation of men." In spite of this, "these Nordic Americans for the last generation have found themselves increasingly uncomfortable, and finally deeply distressed." What had gone wrong? Evans' initial formulation in "The Klan's Fight for Americanism" was intentionally vague:

There appeared first confusion in thought and opinion, a groping and hesitancy about national affairs and private life alike, in sharp contrast to the clear, straightforward purposes of our earlier years. There was futility in religion, too, which was in many ways even more distressing. Presently we began to find that we were dealing with strange ideas; policies that always sounded well, but somehow always made us still more uncomfortable.

Finally came the moral breakdown that has been going on for two decades. One by one all our traditional moral standards went by the boards, or were so disregarded that they ceased to be binding. The sacredness of our Sabbath, of our homes, of chastity, and finally even of our right to teach our own children in our own schools fundamental facts and truths were torn away from us. Those who maintained the old standards did so only in the face of constant ridicule.


Similarly, although immigrants might use the same words as patriotic Nordic Americans, they could rarely, if ever, achieve genuine Americanism. "Americanism, to the Klansman, is a thing of the spirit, a purpose and a point of view, that can only come through instinctive racial understanding." Most "aliens" do not "understand those principles, even when they use our words in talking about them." On the other hand, Nordic Americans, even when unable to express their beliefs, still embodied the purest Americanism.


As a simple statement of fact, this was wildly incorrect. But it was true, as Klan recruiters kept reminding potential members, that Irish Catholics and others who were not "real" Americans dominated city government in Boston, New York, and other major cities. Irish Catholic women dominated the ranks of school teachers, their brothers the ranks of the police. Little wonder, Klan spokesmen charged, that Catholics had enjoyed such success keeping Bible reading out of the schools or that bootleggers openly flouted the Volstead Act.

Who were "they"? Who had stolen the Nordic Americans' patrimony? First and foremost, "they" were Catholics. The "Roman Church" is "fundamentally and irredeemably, in its leadership, in politics, in thought, and largely in membership, actually and actively alien, un-American and usually anti-American." "Old stock Americans . . . see in the Roman Church today the chief leader of alienism, and the most dangerous alien power with a foothold inside our boundaries," Evans wrote. [Click on handbill to view its complete text.]

This, like the Klan's appropriation of eugenics, sounded a theme broadly heard in American public life. William Robinson Pattangall, defeated Democratic candidate for governor of Maine in 1924, ran on a platform sharply critical of the Klan. He later admitted that he had seriously underestimated the salience of anti-Catholicism. "I did not even know it [hatred from "the long-dead days of the religious wars"] existed, did not realize at all how persistent such a hatred could be when there was nothing to excite it" except "the Klan's brilliant incendiarism." Yet Pattangall himself stated in a 1925 article in The Forum that the Klan's "complaints made against the Catholics and foreign-born are very largely true." More specifically:

The most valid of all the charges the Klan brings against the Roman hierarchy is that secretly it does not accept the American principle of the separation of church and state, but furtively goes into politics as a church and attempts to use its spiritual hold on its members as a means for political control.

The Forum had, in its preceeding issue, August 1924, sponsored an "impartial discussion of the Americanism of the Roman Catholic Church" and its reporter who most frequently wrote critically about the KKK, Stanley Frost, warned in the June 1928 issue that Al Smith's "inevitable" defeat, should he gain the nomination, would likely lead to the creation of a "Catholic Party" modelled on those of Europe. Similar discussions of the "Catholic influence" upon American politics filled the newspapers and magazines of the 1920s.

When not Catholic, "they" were often Jews. Interestingly, Evans steered clear of some anti-Semitic stereotypes. In 1923, when warning of "The Menace of Modern Immigration" at the Texas State Fair (on Klan Day), he conceded that Jews were a talented people who obeyed "eugenic" laws. They could not become real Americans, however, because centuries of persecution had engrained in them a congenital inability to feel patriotism. No Jew, no matter if he and his descendants lived in the U.S. for a thousand years, could experience the sentiments of love for his new country an immigrant from Britain might feel within a year. By 1926, in his North American Review essay, Evans conceded that some Jews might indeed become true Americans. The Jew's
abilities are great, he contributes much to any country where he lives. This is particularly true of the Western Jew, those of the stocks we have known so long. Their separation from us is more religious than racial. When freed from persecution these Jews have shown a tendency to disintegrate and amalgamate. We may hope that shortly, in the free atmosphere of America, Jews of this class will cease to be a problem.

Not so with "the Eastern European Jews of recent immigration." They were not "true Jews." Anthropologists "now tell us that these are . . . only Judaized Mongols -- Chazers." Unlike the "true Hebrew," there was little hope that such people could assimilate. Evans' anti-Semitism was mild compared to that voiced by Henry Ford who turned his Dearborn Independent into an organ for the most vicious and irresponsible accusations. It was Ford who popularized the spurious Protocols of the Elders of Zion by using it as the basis for The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem. Published first as articles in the Dearborn Independent and then in four volumes, The International Jew attributed all of the nation's ills and every feature of modern life of which Ford personally disapproved to a Jewish conspiracy. [It is widely available on the internet, as with the link above, courtesy of present-day anti-Semitic and white supremacist organizations.]


In the final analysis, "they" proved to be anyone whose view of America did not correspond to the "racial instincts" of the Nordic American as expressed by the Klan. "They" even included some Nordic Americans, those whose "liberalism" deviated from the Klan's own "progressive conservativism."

As Paxton pointed out, none of these propositions were original to the fascist agitators of the interwar period. They were literally "in the air," as their appearance throughout the developed world demonstrates quite clearly. So, even as Evans claimed to be seeking to articulate the "half conscious impulses" of the Klan's membership, he was sounding changes on very familiar themes. Why, we need to ask, did these changes on these themes resonate so clearly and so loudly for so many? Why, that is, were so many "Nordic Americans" so aggrieved?

MacLean puts considerable stress upon the economic upheavals occasioned by the war and the postwar recession. Wartime inflation had eaten away at the purchasing power of the average consumer. Then the sharp downturn in the economy during 1919-1920 had made a bad situation worse. Yet, the Klan grew most rapidly during the early years of the 1920s boom, in 1923 and 1924. This does not mean that economic stress was not a factor, merely that it cannot by itself explain the growth of the Klan.
Emperor and Imperial Wizard Hiram Wesley Evans had hinted darkly at an apocalyptic struggle between "Nordic" Americans and lesser breeds in his "The Klan's Fight For Americanism:

We can neither expel, exterminate nor enslave these low-standard aliens, yet their continued presence on the present basis means our doom. Those who know the American character know that if the problem is not soon solved by wisdom, it will be solved by one of those cataclysmic outbursts which have so often disgraced -- and saved! -- the race.

The "outburst" never came. Instead the Klan steadily lost members and influence. In part this was due to scandal. Grand Dragon David C. Stephenson, head of the Indiana Klan which claimed 500,000 members, kipnapped and raped a young state employee. Sentenced to twenty-five years to life for second-degree murder, Stephenson turned against state officials, including the governor, he had helped elect. This was the worst, but by no means the only, scandal involving Klan leaders. In part, the decline of the Klan came from the continued success of the Republican Party in meeting the political needs of "Nordic" Americans and from the success of non-Nordics in making a permanent home for themselves in the Democratic Party. In part, it came from the Klan's perceived ineffectualness. It could not make good on its promises to enforce Prohibition or reform morals, except in localities where its members expressed deeply held community values. It could not "take back" political control of American cities. In some, such as Worcester, opponents made it all too clear who was in charge. Nor could it reduce the role of Catholics or immigrants in American public life.

In the end, the Klan was important not for what it did but for what it signified. It accomplished little but, as Evans appreciated, it expressed the otherwise inarticulate rage and resentment of millions. At bottom its members' quarrel was with modernity. In particular, they objected to the rise of Catholics and Jews to positions of power and prominence; they feared that science would undermine the moral authority of the Bible; they worried that a "New Woman" would refuse to the submit to patriarchal authority; they worried that a "New Negro" would reject white supremacy. In matters trivial and profound they found themselves threatened with being passed by. The Klan captured perfectly, as did the Eugenics movement, their simultaneous sense of being entitled and endangered.

For a time the Klan captured too the restrictive notion of national identity the war and the Red Scare fostered. Hiram Wesley Evans, while in no sense a Wilsonian, was a beneficiary of the new and narrow nationalism Wilson promoted, of federally-sanctioned vigilanteism, of Wilson's ringing endorsement of D.W. Griffith's glorification of the first Klan. He also benefitted from the rising tide of anti-Semitism, the scientific legitimacy granted eugenics, the growing frustration with the failure of Prohibition. Not least, he benefitted from the legal immunity granted to the rioters in Tulsa, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, and to lynch mobs everywhere. He benefitted too from the intellectual respectability of anti-Catholicism. Evans spoke the simple truth when he claimed to speak for millions. What he said most loudly was that "Americanism" was a matter of blood and creed. Americans were white Protestants, lineal descendants of the Revolutionary generation and of the pioneers who settled the West. They were members of the "Great Race."

Substitute homosexuality for Catholicism and today's fundies sounds a LOT like the Klan of the 1920's. Not in the racism, but the sense of victimization and the anger at modernity.

But it has to be understood that these people have much less power than the Klan did. Later on we'll look at how the Klan took over the state of Indiana. The fundies gain power from being outsiders and victims, no matter how much power they get.

posted by Steve @ 1:09:00 AM

1:09:00 AM

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