The New Know Nothings

Hey,

A good deal has been written about the resurgence of the Know Nothing political tradition in America. I won’t be adding much to it here.

But in case you need a refresher, the Know Nothings were a political movement and, ultimately, a political party that began as a secret society. At once difficult to categorize ideologically but easy to recognize, they were populists and nativists. Indeed, the name of their official political party was the Native American Party—back then “Native American” was a term for the white folks who got here first, mostly of English descent (think Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York). 

The label “Know Nothing” didn’t begin as a pejorative, because the movement began as a network of secret societies not all that dissimilar to QAnon. When members of these organizations were asked about their political views, they would say, “I know nothing,” or, “I know nothing but my country.”

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