The Know-nothing Party has become the "No, nothing" Party. You won't notice the difference.
The original Know-Nothing Party of the 1850s actually knew things. The nickname derived from the group's having evolved out of a secret society (it remained one for quite a while), and the fact that whenever purported members were approached and asked a question about their beliefs or intentions, the answer usually took some form of "I know nothing."
It would be easy, but far too simplistic, to draw a connection between the secretive group of a century-and-a-half ago and the current QAnon-driven Republican Party. Most historians agree that the original Know-Nothing party was neither evil, insane nor (and this is the important part) abysmally ignorant. They were merely scared—nativists terrified of foreign influence diluting the American experiment. The current Republican Party, by comparison, seems to have adopted as its guiding principle the very same dilution of the American experiment. It's working.
Nowhere is this jumble of disjointed neurons more apparent than in its minimizing or outright dismissal of the January 6 insurrection, and nowhere is the dismissal itself more imbecilic than in the fatuous ramblings of someone like Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) who said, with a straight face and not a hint of irony, that there have been "worse things than people without any firearms coming into a building. He underscored the word "firearms" because, in his apparently stunted imagination, he cannot envision of a person being killed by a club or a pole or any available heavy object. Oh, Louis, such a puny worldview in such a big state.
Gohmert is not the aberration; he is instead the representation of the Republican view that the insurrection and riot of 1/6/21 were more a college prank than a violent uprising—more an expression of unbridled patriotism than murderous treason. "Most [participants]," he said "did not come here to cause trouble. Most came here to protest." The videos tell a different story and will continue to do so, and though the gaslighting continues on the conspiracy websites and Fox News, the videos won't go away—the thugs and traitors remain thugs and traitors.
So this is not the Know-Nothing Party of the 1850s; it's the No, Nothing Party in which the answer to any serious question is always the same:
Anything wrong with the former president encouraging a mob to attack the Capitol and hang the current vice-president? No, nothing.
In 2020 Trump ran on no platform other than Joe Biden was bad. Is there a well-formulated platform for the mid-term elections? No, nothing.
Do you see a danger in questioning the integrity of our last election and how it impugns every aspect of our democracy? No, nothing.
As the weeks go by and arrests mount, many of those "D.C. pranksters" are copping to assault charges and facing long jail terms. But most, if not all of them, are counting on another insurgency—one that reinstalls Donald Trump in the White House and provides amnesty for them, maybe even grants them Medals of Freedom that they can share with Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan, and other "luminaries."
Most disheartening in all this is the Republican silence and lockstep approval, especially when contrasted with the Democrats’ 96%. Of course, I speak of the unwillingness of Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona to take the steps necessary to save the voting rights of all Americans. Their misguided reliance on some bipartisanship that disappeared with Newt Gingrich will cost the Democrats everything—from infrastructure to the courts to voting rights to the presidency.
It was mere weeks ago when the Republicans excoriated Liz Cheney for speaking her mind and practically removed her from the party. But Joe Biden would not even mention Sinema and Manchin by name, referring to them as senators who vote “more with my Republican friends.”
They’re more than that and less. If the Democrats and the president do not own up to that and pull out every stop, they will become the new Know-Nothings, and aptly named.