Coolidge, Not Klan: Romney Invokes Long Tradition of Loving his Country

Apparently the folks at MSNBC have discovered the ’20s and the Klan after reading a blog post on the internet from a progressive blog. (Yes, that really is their source.) No wonder the top brass at NBC is furious.

Here’s the extract:

MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts, 11AM ET: “So you may not hear Mitt Romney say ‘Keep America American’ anymore. That’s because it was a central theme of the KKK in the 1920s, it was a rallying cry for the group’s campaign of violence and intimidation against blacks, gays and Jews.”

Predictably, Trig birther Andrew Sullivan hyperventilated, calling the slogan “McCarthyite,” from an “alleged moderate.” Never mind, for the moment, the McCarthyite tactic of race-baiting Romney. We are supposed to think that Romney is a Klansman–just as we were supposed to ignore the fact that the late, not so great, Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) actually was a Klansman.

Chris Matthews apologized, but by then the damage had already been done in the blogosphere, where it was tweeted and retweeted and commented and blogged again.

Perhaps a little history is in order.

The phrase in question comes, as best as I can tell, from Albert Johnson, a progressive Republican congressman in the early 20th century from Washington state. Congressman Johnson was well-supported by the Klan, who wanted to restrict immigration because of a fear that racial minorities were eroding America’s puritan stock. (Progressives in those days believed, as progressives do to this day, that race matters–and matters a lot.) Johnson said he was “determined to keep America American by admitting fewer and better of what the Old World has to offer.”

Johnson’s Klan ties notwithstanding, the “keep America American” sentiment was widely shared by many of the leading lawmakers of the day.

Calvin Coolidge, for instance, stood behind no one in his opposition to the Klan, but he, too, felt America should be kept American. Here is what he said in his first message to Congress:

American institutions rest solely on good citizenship. They were created by people who had a background of self-government. New arrivals should be limited to our capacity to absorb them into the ranks of good citizenship. America must be kept American. For this purpose, it is necessary to continue a policy of restricted immigration. It would be well to make such immigration of a selective nature with some inspection at the source, and based either on a prior census or upon the record of naturalization. Either method would insure the admission of those with the largest capacity and best intention of becoming citizens. I am convinced that our present economic and social conditions warrant a limitation of those to be admitted. We should find additional safety in a law requiring the immediate registration of all aliens. Those who do not want to be partakers of the American spirit ought not to settle in America.

Though one could quibble over the wording or the wisdom of various immigration policies, it seems fairly obvious to say that America ought to American. Saying that you love America and want her to stay the way she is is the essence of patriotism, in much the same way that when you tell a woman you love her you don’t want her to change. That doesn’t mean she won’t change–indeed everyone and everything does–but that you know and accept her at her essence.

America’s essence is changing. On the eve of the 2008 election, Obama promised to “fundamentally transform” America. That “hope and change” has left us with a changed credit rating. The task now is to return to normalcy once more, before it’s too late. Perhaps Mitt Romney offers a path to normalcy, but it is too hard to see at the moment.

Of course, we Republicans ought to expect to see more thuggish accusations of racism if Romney wins the nomination. We’ll hear all about his church’s record on race in exactly the inverse proportion we heard about Obama’s church and all its wackiness. As I wrote describing Jeremiah Wright in the latest issue of The American Spectator:

In 2008 America elected a president whose pastor for 20 years preached anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, advocated bizarre pseudo-scientific racial ideas, opposed interracial marriage, praised communist dictatorships, denounced black “assimilation,” and taught Afrocentric feel-good nonsense to schoolchildren. When Americans discovered the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s views during the 2008 campaign, they rightly wondered if Barack Obama, like his pastor, really believed that HIV/AIDS was created by the American government to kill black people. Even to this day, no one knows for sure whether Obama shares the views of Wright, whom the Chicago Sun-Times once described as Obama’s “close confidant.”

You would think that that issue would animate our press, but they are more interested in circulating the race card until it loses whatever currency it has left.

Is Romney a racist?

MSNBC’s “Meet the Press” tried to paint him as one in 2007, two weeks before the Iowa caucus, when it brought up the issue of blacks and the Church of Latter-Day Saints. The issue is a lot more complicated than the MSNBC or anyone on the left would have you believe.

But as Romney tells it, “I was anxious to see a change in my church.”

“I can remember when I heard about the change being made. I was driving home from — I think it was law school, but I was driving home — going through the Fresh Pond rotary in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I heard it on the radio and I pulled over and literally wept.”

“And so it’s very deep and fundamental in my life and my most core beliefs that all people are children of God. My faith has always told me that. My faith has also always told me that in the eyes of God, every individual was merited the fullest degree of happiness in the hereafter and I had no question that African Americans and blacks generally would have every right and every benefit in the hereafter that anyone else had and that God is no respecter of persons.”

That tradition–that all men are created equal–and not the tradition of Wright’s God damn America, is the American tradition. It must be kindled and kept aflame in every patriot’s heart.

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