President Obama appeared in an interview broadcast Sunday with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, where he said that American voters will say ‘no’ to Donald Trump in the November election, in part because of anti-immigrant sentiments that recall a 19th Century nativist political party nicknamed the “Know Nothings.”
Trump has embraced an anti-immigrant stance, but has said he favors the legal entry of immigrants with job skills needed in U.S. industry.
Regardless, Obama blasted Trump for promoting “intolerance” and government policies “that are contrary to our values, banning certain classes of people because of who they are or what they look like, what faith they practice.” Obama said, “We have to be pretty hard about saying no to that. And I think that America will do that this time as well.”
Zakaria asked Obama about “the support that Donald Trump has” and “where it comes from,” referring to white middle-class Americans “who seem to have the most suspicion about you.” Obama replied that there’s a historical trend in America of citizens becoming less enthusiastic about new immigration the longer they are in the United States.
Obama said, “Once they’re included in what they consider to be “the real America, they begin worrying about outsiders contaminating, polluting, messing up a good thing.”
Obama continued, “That’s not new, that dates back to, you know, the beginning of this country.”
Obama said the U.S. “benefits” from immigrants in the long-term, despite a history of ‘bumps’ in the road, “whether it’s the Know Nothings or, know, other spasms of anti-immigrant sentiment directed at the Irish or southern Europeans as opposed to Northern Europeans, or the Chinese – or today, Latinos or Muslims.”
The “Know Nothings” were a mid-19th Century Protestants-only political movement housed in The American Party. It promised to ‘purify’ American politics by slowing down or ending a wave of Irish Catholics coming into the United States. Its nickname grew out of the movement’s secretive nature. Leaders instructed members to say “I know nothing” when asked about their involvement.
In America, Obama said, “your patriotism and how American you are is not the color of your skin, your last name, your faith, but rather your adherence to a creed, your belief in certain principles and values. And I don’t expect that that’s going to change simply because Mr. Trump has gotten a little more attention than usual.”
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