Nativism - World war ii and the effects on nativism

This charge allowed traditional targets of nativists to turn the tables on their historic adversary—the Anglo establishment. As Justus Doenecke notes, disdain for Britain and things British unified a heterogeneous group of Americans who opposed aid to Britain between 1939 and 1941. Coughlin and several other mass leaders, however, copied Hitler's anti-Semitism and anticommunism. This strategy, combined with their accusation that members of the legitimate political order were the real aliens in the United States, backfired by decade's end. Their thesis that a cabal of Anglophiles, Democratic politicians, international bankers, and Jews controlled the government gave the Roosevelt administration evidence to proclaim the existence of an internal fascist movement, to link this threat with respectable noninterventionists attempting to prevent American entrance into the war, and to strengthen presidential power over foreign affairs. In September 1941, when famed flier Charles A. Lindbergh blamed the Jews, along with Britain and Roosevelt for the nation's march toward war, he closed the circle—nativism was now perceived as un-American, and noninterventionists as minions of Hitler.

Yet if World War II did not approach the first in its violation of civil liberties, the second remains far from the "good war" portrayed in much historiography. Indeed, the racial character of the conflict figured prominently on both sides of the Pacific and revealed anew that the Republic was, in Richard Polenberg's term, "one nation, divisible." The war underlined anew the appalling treatment accorded African Americans, yet also led at long last to the postwar integration of the armed forces. The most flagrant blot on wartime civil liberties came with the incarceration of 126,000 Japanese Americans—ripped from their homes on the West Coast and transferred to "relocation" camps in the western interior. This diaspora came shortly after Pearl Harbor, when the federal government embraced the Pacific coast obsession with the Yellow Peril and accepted Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt's doctrine of "military necessity." Contrary to DeWitt's argument and popular belief, the Japanese Americans were not spies and saboteurs but a hard-working and prosperous people whose virtues did justice to Horatio Alger.

This mass relocation marked a new chapter in the history of American nativism. The Japanese Americans, who gained an official apology and partial redress in 1988 for their tribulations, were not tarred and feathered or forced to kiss the flag. For the first time, the federal government efficiently rounded them up and shipped them off to concentration camps, where—having lost their property, their jobs, and their civil and legal rights—they sat out the war behind barbed wire. The threat of Japanese-American betrayal, which girded relocation, drew support from President Roosevelt in Executive Order 9066, secured approval from Congress, and was upheld by the Supreme Court. The incarceration had unintended consequences as Japanese Americans moved eastward, and shifted their occupational emphasis from agriculture to business and the professions.

Nativism declined in importance after 1945, reflecting eroded foundations of ethnic group loyalty and changes in the basic structure of society after 1945. Religious affiliation supplanted ethnic origin as the basic means of achieving self-identity and promoting group loyalty. The memory of the Holocaust—and of the tardiness of the United States and other Allies in dealing with it—contributed in 1948 to passage of the Displaced Persons Act, which opened the gates to 400,000 Europeans. Moreover, the onset of the Cold War enabled immigrants and refugees from central and eastern Europe to move within the national consensus. Czechs, Hungarians, and Poles could be as good—or better—Americans than the white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant establishment, especially the perjured traitor, Alger Hiss, and his key character witness, Dean Acheson. In its ire against Anglophiles and intellectuals, McCarthyism both reflected and intensified the patriotism of these anticommunist Europeans.

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