Peter Beinart of The Atlantic is an exceptionally insightful journalist. He makes the case that Trump is attempting to take the country not back to the 1950’s, but all the way back to the 1920’s.
“But what links Trump and the conservative presidents of the 1920s is their view of all foreign governments, regardless of ideology, as alien and predatory, and their desire not to bind America to any of them. It’s no coincidence that, in both eras, this obsession with American sovereignty has followed disillusioning wars, nor that, in both eras, it has coincided with a panic about immigration. Both Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” and Harding’s, “Back to Normalcy,” evoke nostalgia for a time when America, and native-born Americans, were more clearly masters of their own fate.
In both eras, as well, the insistence that foreign governments have cheated America is bound up with the insistence that foreign people have cheated Americans. As vice president, Coolidge warned that “the unassimilated alien child menaces our children,” and that “biological laws tell us that certain divergent people will not mix or blend.” The Second Klan reached its peak in the 1920s, riding a surge of xenophobia to enroll millions of members. And in 1924, Congress passed sweeping immigration restrictions. Hostility to immigration was widespread among rank-and-file conservatives of the era, as it is today.”
I can’t fathom why the most economically successful country on the planet, a nation built by immigrants and whose entrepreneurial energy today is largely fueled by immigrants, is attracted to policies that resemble those of Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover.