How to Save the Republican Party

The Know Nothing Party is being disparaged these days by having their name associated with the Tea Party Caucus, whose members played such a starring role in the thrilling drama called “Making the Country Beg for Mercy” that ran for 16 days before it closed last night. Not even our previous worse enemies, the lefties in Hollywood, were able to do that in the Red Scare farce of the 1950’s.

At least Ye Olde Original Know Nothing Party (1845-1860) was honest when its members were instructed to say “they knew nothing” about issues, including correct grammar.

Like most political slogans, it was only partially true. For example, Citizen Know Nothing, as they called themselves, knew they were against immigrants (especially Irish and Germans who were feared to be unduly influencing elections) and freedom of religion (especially not for Catholics, papist underground troops about to seize control of the country). They knew that the United States was born to be a white Protestant nation.

Our new Know Nothing Party in the House of Representatives does not seem to know the Revolution is over. It’s not the British government that is unfairly levying taxes without representation, or sending over cruel and unusual policies like the Stamp Act, or dumping surplus British breakfast tea on us.

We are doing everything voted on by the Congress to ourselves.

They also do not seem to know the basic principles our form of governance is based on. The Founding Fathers, for example, believed in compromise. The Constitution is filled with compromises. Our history is rife with “compromises” taught to kids in history classes (i.e., the Missouri Compromise).

Other things they don’t seem to have heard of include Majority Rule, the Rule of Law. (“A law is a law is a law,” as Gertrude Stein may have put it on a Fox News panel). And let’s not forget the ever-popular “My Country, right or wrong …”)

Strictly speaking, our Neo-Know Nothings do know something.

The original Know Nothing Party had some clout in the elections of 1854, sweeping the legislature in Massachusetts, carrying Boston, Salem and other New England cities. It had 40% of the vote in Pennsylvania. It even had ex –President Millard Fillmore as its standard bearer in the presidential election of 1856, before the party collapsed and disappeared into the Republican Party by 1860.

But that was nothing compared to the Tea Party powers. Wait until you see the next Shut Down the Government budget scenario plot, due in January, and the debate over immigration reform.

As you know, Tea Party representatives are sent from gerrymandered districts that are comparable to “the rotten boroughs” in the UK, the few to influence the many in the House of Commons. The TP here cannot be dismissed as an electoral aberration like the original KNP. Since they, or kindred folks cannot be voted out of office, they will continue to erupt like Vesuvius.

All of this mishagas is bound to be very confusing for the future Republican Party.

As a registered Republican—yes, Virginia I am a Republican—I consider myself a member of the old original Grand Old Party, the good Republicans, the ones who believe in responsible governance, compromises, majority rule, the rule of law, the whole megillah. And especially in strong party leadership.

I know nothing about what action the current toothless elephant in charge is capable of taking to clean up the mess in Washington. Looking like one is about to cry can only go so far in stopping the Know Nothing wing with its passions and schemes hell bent on bringing the county to its knees again, doing the gun-to-the-head bit in full view of the world. Our leaders fear retribution from the miniscule TP and its financial minions.

If I may be so bold as to quote the words of a Democrat: “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” Which is quite a lot, our leaders in the House of Horrors appear to believe.

The Tea Party is really the American Taliban, as Dr. Alvin Kahn has observed, and should be required to register itself with the Attorney General’s office as enemy agents.

In the meanwhile, to end the confusion the Tea Party Caucus should borrow another page from American history and bolt the liberal, commie, compromise-loving, progressive Republican Party, as the original Know Nothings jumped from the Whigs in 1854, and form their own all-new, improved, and even more unknowing, pure reactionary party. Underwritten by the Koch Industries and the usual suspects, it could call itself the America Second Party.

But what do I know.

Marvin Kitman
Oct. 17, 2013

The writer is a Lincoln Republican who ran for President in 1964. He lost.