“Love it or Leave it:” The History of American Nativism

President Trump's “love it or leave it” rhetoric about America isn't anything new — his anti-immigrant tactic is deeply rooted in U.S. history.

Rallying cry for white supremacists

President Trump’s recent attacks fit into a long tradition in U.S. politics, where anti-immigrant nativism has long been used as a campaign tool. Founded in 1817, the American Colonization Society aimed to send free black Americans to Africa as an alternative to emancipation in the U.S. As the pace of immigration accelerated in the 1840s anti-immigration sentiments emerged in force, leading to the creation of the new anti-immigrant party. This hostile reaction extended toward the surge of immigrants from Asia, then to those from southern and eastern European. This resulted in the 1924 Immigration Act, which dramatically limited arrivals to the U.S. with quotas based on national origin. America, love it or leave it, is not a new sentiment nor a radical sentiment, and it certainly is not a racist sentiment. It should remind us of commonly held and enduring founding principles that ought to be uniting us as a free people.

According to Dr. Kendi, we’re seeing this again in 2019 with Donald Trump. “When people from Ireland came to the United States by the millions, in particularly in 1840, what rose in reaction to their immigration was most prominently the Know Nothing Party in the 19th, which was a party that was opposed to Catholics and Irish, and especially Irish-Catholics. And even though the party did not last, it became quite powerful in a short period of time, just as you have a party, a major political party today which in the United States which largely is empowered by this idea that there are certain people who are not American and those are people who we need to quote "send back".”

“America: Love it or leave it” made its way onto bumper stickers and popular songs. It had become rallying cry for white supremacists. In 1968, similar rhetoric helped boost Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign amid racial divisions and civil strife.