August 1, 2019
As 'Moscow Mitch', Kellyanne Conway, others tout the part y line, the question is: WHOSE PARTY?
by PETER F. STEVENS
America’s chaotic political state of affairs no longer stands as a battle between “Red” and “Blue.” While the Democrats remain a party of circular firing squads seemingly bent on snatching defeat from the jaws of a potential victory in 2020, the Republican Party no longer exists—not in the way it did until Donald Trump descended onto the GOP’s stage in 2015. The Republicans belong to him alone. They grovel at his every whim and shudder in fear at the thought of his Twitter-fueled wrath.
The president’s full-throated assault on Congress, the media, immigrants of all stripes, minorities, and any court decision he dislikes would mean nothing without the obeisance of members of a party that once actually stood for something good and decent. In an ongoing rush toward the frequently cited but all-too-looming specter of a Constitutional crisis, a cadre of Irish Americans continues to evince a stunning collective case of historical myopia. All in servitude to the Trumpian Party.
At this year’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, in Washington D.C., White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney—a proud promoter of his Irish roots and Catholic faith—asserted that the same religious beliefs that drive his own life are the very lifeblood of the Trump administration’s policies. Mulvaney asserted that “the principles of our faith [are] being manifest under the president.” He added, “That’s something I’m extraordinarily proud to be a part of.”
Maybe I missed something back in parochial school and Sunday school, but doesn’t the Catholic faith frown upon persecuting legitimate asylum seekers, immigrants, and the “least among us?” I’m trying to find the New Testament passage that advocates herding children—including infants—into cages (yes, they are cages no matter how much the president, Mulvaney, and the administration lie about them). The mantra “what would Jesus do” is one that has little or no role in the actions of Donald Trump or Mick Mulvaney.
Then there’s that Scots-Irish paragon who has earned from some the monicker “Moscow Mitch.” In the past weeks, US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his minions have blocked every single bill designed to hamper Russia or other hostile actors from interfering in our 2020 elections. Here are two of the major “objections” by McConnell on behalf of his lord and master, Donald Trump: (1) They don’t want a mandatory back-up system of paper ballots in case of cyber attacks on the election, and (2) McConnell believes there is no need for the president or anyone else to report offers of foreign “campaign aid” to the FBI.
In one of the baldest lies uttered in this era of countless falsehoods, McConnell actually praised Trump, citing what he has done to safeguard the 2020 elections from Russia or anyone else. Didn’t the president accept his BFF Vlad Putin’s denials that Russia had ever thought about interfering?
Next up – yet again – in the Murderers’ Row of pliant Irish Americans worshipping at the Trumpian altar is Kellyanne Conway. In response to some media questions about the president’s racist Twitter tirade against “the Squad” (US Reps. Ocasio Cortez, Omar, Tlaib, and Pressley), all women of color, Conway demanded to know the ethnicity of the reporter asking the question. Hours later, this ardent Trumpist, realizing she had crossed a line here, attempted to walk back her words. In contrast to the impact of the episode on a great many listeners and readers, she tweeted, “This was meant with no disrespect. We are all from somewhere else ‘originally.’ I asked the question to answer the question and volunteered my own ethnicity: Italian and Irish. Like many, I am proud of my ethnicity, love the USA & grateful to God to be an American.”
With those words, Ms. Conway’s historical amnesia resonates.
When it comes to the immigrants of yesteryear – especially Irish immigrants to America’s shores – the historical distortions and outright lies abound across the land. A huge number of Irish Americans refuse to accept any positive comparisons between their beloved ancestors from the old sod and the undocumented immigrants of today. Today’s Nativists hurl the argument that in the grim years of the potato famine, the waves of Irish streaming into America from “coffin ships” or across the Canadian border were not ever officially branded “illegal immigrants.”
On the surface, the point is accurate. The term “illegal immigrant” did not exist in the American lexicon of the 19th Century. Back in 2014, Boston Globe columnist Johanna Weiss posed a question about the phrase to Mae Ngai, a Columbia University historian and expert on immigration. Ngai answered, “People are shocked when I say before World War I, there were no green cards, no visas, no quotas, no passports, even. Really, you just showed up. And if you could walk without a limp, and you had $30 in your pocket, you walked right in.”
And that is what our Irish and European ancestors from that long-ago time did. They faced no quota system and no immigration courts or law enforcement. They came to “the Golden Door of America” undocumented. In Boston during the mass immigration of the Great Famine era, about the only thing preventing the Irish from staying in America without any legalities was if they were quarantined at Deer Island due to disease.
No one in his or her right mind believes that in the year 2019, the United States should not have border security and comprehensive immigration reform. If anyone, however, truly believes that the Great Wall of Trump will rise across thousands of miles of our southern border, he or she is either benighted by hate or willingly foolish.
“That was then, this is now!” President Trump and his fellow Nativists bleat about the situation in the 19th century as they profess that they want only the “right kind” of immigrants today. That’s where historical reality shreds the modern Nativists’ arguments and exposes either their bigotry or willing ignorance. The waves of Irish, Germans, Italians, and Eastern Europeans who came to America from the onset of the Great Famine to the early 20th century encountered the same prejudice and contempt that immigrants from Mexico, Central and Latin America, Haiti, Africa, and so many other places face today.
What many of our Irish-American forebears knew all too well was that the Nativists loathed anything Irish, anything Catholic, any immigrant except the right kind, anything they deemed “un-American.” They proclaimed that they needed to save the nation from going broke to pay for waves of “Paddys and Bridgets.” Anyone who was not a native-born Anglo-Protestant was not a real American, but a threat to them. In short, the Nativists “wanted their country back.” Today, the phrase has an all-too-familiar ring.
PS: The Twitter-in-Chief, responding to the furor his attacks on “the Squad” had elicited, typed, “Those Tweets were NOT Racist. I don’t have a Racist bone in my body!” The times we live in… party?