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Team Mitch is tooting the dog whistle again.

Mitch McConnell Race Baiting

This time, Sen. McConnell is letting a fan club borrow it. The Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, a group linked to Karl Rove, has put out a TV ad claiming that President Obama and Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democrat who wants McConnell’s job, aim to give “amnesty” to “illegal immigrants.”

By tooting “amnesty” together with “illegal immigrants,” the KOC ad crafters knew a lot of Kentucky white folks would think Mexicans, not the 50,000 undocumented Irish and other white Europeans in the country.

The Know-Nothings are long gone. But their bigotry thumps in the chests of white Kentuckians of the send-’em-all-back-to-Mexico persuasion. Accordingly, Team Mitch and its buddies have shined up the dog whistle.

Of course, the GOP’s pandering to anti-immigrant prejudice is also rooted in bare-knucks politics. Most Hispanic Americans vote Democratic. A lot of them are pro-union, too. Hence, the last thing the screw-the-unions Republicans want is a clear path to citizenship for immigrants who will likely swell Democratic and union ranks.

At the same time, most African Americans also vote for Democrats, and many are in unions. Thus, Republican nativism dovetails with the GOP’s neo-Jim Crow voter ID laws, which are calculated to diminish minority voting.

Anyway, nativism is almost as old as the republic. Only the targeted immigrants have changed. In Kentucky of the 1850s, nativists singled out Irish and German Catholics, many of whom settled in Louisville, the state’s largest city.

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George D. Prentice, editor of the Louisville Daily Journal, embraced the anti-foreign and anti-Catholic Know-Nothing Party, which became popular in the Falls City and many other parts of Kentucky. He editorialized against "foreign hordes” and warned of a Catholic takeover of the country.

On August 6, 1855, election day, Know-Nothing mobs rampaged through German and Irish neighborhoods in Louisville, killing at least 22 people and injuring many more. The rioters burned down houses and stores and threatened to torch Catholic churches. Prentice’s editorials were blamed for helping incite the rioters.

The Know-Nothings are long gone. But their bigotry thumps in the chests of white Kentuckians of the send-’em-all-back-to-Mexico persuasion. Accordingly, Team Mitch and its buddies have shined up the dog whistle.

berry craig

Long gone, too, is the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln. The Great Emancipator won the presidency in 1860 standing on a platform with a plank that declared, “…The Republican party is opposed to any change in our naturalization laws or any state legislation by which the rights of citizens hitherto accorded to immigrants from foreign lands shall be abridged or impaired; and in favor of giving a full and efficient protection to the rights of all classes of citizens, whether native or naturalized, both at home and abroad.”

Five years before, Lincoln had roundly denounced the Know-Nothings in a powerful speech: “I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can anyone who abhors the oppression of Negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we begin by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’

[dc]"W[/dc]e now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except Negroes.’ When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except Negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.’ When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty-to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.”

Berry Craig

Berry Craig