If you’ve caught Mitt Romney speak for more than five seconds during any of the recent televised GOP debates, you’d know that he spent most of his life in the private sector. But did you also know he’s been dropping KKK slogans on the campaign trail?
Among the little quips that the millionaire, wealthy, white former governor from Massachusetts has spat on the road to Washington is the urging to “keep America American.” Oddly enough, those three words aren’t all that original, as it looks as if ol’ Mitt has stolen the slogan from a group you wouldn’t normally think to cross — the Ku Klux Klan.
“Keep America American” hasn’t been an exclusively-KKK motto, nor is it necessary the slogan of those pesky, African-American-abhorring nationalists. It has, however, been adopted by the Klan and other questionable organizations for more than a century, usually in instances where silly foreigners have tried to infiltrate our god-given precious land that is the United States.
The origin of the phrase dates back to the Irish-hating politicians aligned in to the “Know Nothing Party” of the pre-Civil War era, who were peeved at the huddled masses brimming over the vast melting pot of America. Seventy years later during congressional hearings over the Johnson-Reed Immigration Act of 1924, Congressman Carter of Oklahoma supported the legislation that would limit the influx of foreigners to only 2 percent. The lawmaker saluted his Capitol Hill brethren for an attempt to “maintain absolute prohibition of immigration” into America, and though that effort wasn’t entirely successfully, he urged them to keep up attempts and banning those with “foreign ideals” from entering the US and to, instead, “keep America American.” In Walter Benn Michaels’ book Our America: Nativism, Modernism and Pluralism, the author reports that Carter’s speech was met with a round of applause.
Around the same time, the KKK also began using the branding in their propaganda, all the while setting fires to synagogues and strategically placed crosses on the front lawns of America. The wording appeared in multiple pieces of media both encouraging membership of the KKK and in detailing the history of the group, including the not-quite Pulitzer-winning book, Why You Should Become a Klansman: of Interest to White, Protestant, Native-born Americans Who Want to Keep America American.
The slogan has been muttered throughout his campaign and, as the Los Angeles Times reports, was used as recently as this week.
Former Carter administration adviser David Muston writes that, only a decade after the Klan adopted the adage, groups including the Allied Patriotic Societies, Key Men of America and the American Coalition used the same ethos in their agenda to try to kick Mexicans out of the country — something that Mitt has tackled himself during recent debates, but in classic Romney fashion, has flipped-flopped on time and time again.
Given the GOP hopeful’s tendency to drop certain things and take the opposite approach over a matter of days, it wouldn’t be too big of a surprise of Romney quickly retires the slogan in lieu of something a bit less out-dated and hopefully a whole lot more welcoming.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speak during the ABC News GOP Presidential debate on the campus of Drake University on December 10, 2011 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images/AFP)