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Similarities Between Modern GOP And The 1850's 'Know Nothings'

Tom McClure

One member of the Illinois State University contingent at the Republican convention in Cleveland says he sees strong similarities between support for Donald Trump and the Know Nothing party of a century and a half ago.

J.R. Reed is an ISU double major in political science and history. During GLT's Sound Ideas, he said the anti-immigration sentiment expressed in the 1850's bears a strong resemblance to what's happening today.

"I think this anti-immigrant movement will definitely keep going and have a major impact and influence in politics for years and years to come," said Reed. 

The Know Nothings also wanted to limit the influence of American Catholics in the political process. The party, renamed the American Party, nominated former President Millard Fillmore for president in 1856.

He said the Know Nothings contributed much to what is now referred to as the Republican party.

"The did become part of other parties and had big influence in the Republican party during its formative years," said Reed.

Reed said the Know Nothings grew out of anti-immigration movement based on resentment toward Europeans arriving in the U.S. The party was particularly resistant to Catholic doctrine and influence from the Vatican.

Reed is one of a group of ISU students accompanying Politics and Government Department Professor Tom McClure. McClure and students are  checking in during Sound Ideas during the convention.

Willis is a Bloomington, IL, native. During his senior year at Bloomington High School, he finished third in the "Radio Speaking" division of the state speech contest, the only year he competed.