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Saturday, April 08, 2017

Donald Trump,not so original after all

by digby

Mashing on poor Jean Harlow

Here's a fascinating portrait by Sarah Wildman at Vox of a historical figure most of us have probably never heard of, a Senator from named Robert Rice Reynolds of North Carolina which shows, once again, that there is nothing new under the sun in American politics. Trump is not an original after all:

As a senator, he proposed halting immigration for a decade and registering “aliens,” which he defined as those who entered the country by “illegal” means.

In his second term, he co-sponsored the (failed) 1939 Reynolds-Starnes Bill, which proposed halting all immigration for 10 years unless there was a significant drop in (native-born or naturalized) American unemployment. He also called for fingerprinting and registering all aliens and deporting aliens who needed welfare support

That same year, Reynolds founded the Vindicators Association, a “patriotic society,” explains Julian Pleasants in his book Buncombe Bob: The Life and Times of Robert Rice Reynolds, that was “devoted to 100 percent Americanism.” The group promised America “for Americans” with a slogan of “Our Citizens, Our Country First,” and put out a publication called the American Vindicator that went to even darker places. In one issue, reprinted in Buncombe Bob, readers were breathlessly told: “Criminal aliens are filling the jails of this country. Feeble-minded and insane foreigners are cluttering our madhouses and asylums, all at the expense of American tax-payers.” Another implored readers to set up neighborhood “patrols” to pick-up so-called alien criminals.

To the public at large, though, Reynolds was, above all, a showman with a flair for the theatrical, at least at first.

“The Senate has always had its clowns, dandies and playboys, but rarely so exotic a combination as the gentleman from North Carolina, Robert Rice Reynolds,” opined Life magazine in June 1937. “He is the ladies’ man of the Senate,” the story continued, breathlessly. “Four times married, once to a Follies’ girl, he has been twice divorced, twice left a widower.”

In an earlier issue, Life had spoken of his “gallant ways” and gave him the ribbon of most “sex appeal” of any US senator. He had four children, from three of his wives. The same magazine noted he won popularity contests in the Senate and was beloved by many, if not all.

By 1939, though, his antics were less amusing to Life, which then listed Buncombe Bob as “removed from blatant anti-Semitism” but nevertheless a “man to watch” in “a kind of homespun U.S. proto-fascism manifested by the late Huey Long.”

By the end of his Senate career, Reynolds had married his fifth wife, Evalyn Washington McLean, a young heiress and owner of the legendary Hope Diamond. He was 57; she was a mere 20. But theirs would be another in a list of marital tragedies for Reynolds: She did not survive to her 25th birthday.

But that’s because there were massive, external geopolitical forces — Hitler and Mussolini’s rise to power, the Holocaust, and World War II — that highlighted the possible dangers of his beliefs. There are no such pressures today.

In fact, we may be among the geopolitical forces that are highlighting the dangers this time.

Read the whole thing. This nativist strain has always been with us, of course, but the combination of entertainer, ladies man, nationalist and bigot seems to be a type. Very interesting.