When Trump ran for president, he promised to take America back to greatness. I assumed he wanted to return us to the 1950s, when minorities and women supposedly knew their respective places, and coal and tobacco were king. He apparently had an earlier period in mind: the years right after World War I.
In that era, federal agents stormed across America, arresting and deporting presumed enemies of the state. The effort was led by Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, whose nighttime raids transformed him into a legendary figure and potential presidential candidate.
Typical were the nationwide raids conducted on the night of Jan. 2, 1920. The Chicago Tribune report was headlined, “U.S. Drags in 4,000 Reds: Aliens Seized in Huge Raids To Be Deported.”
A New York Times headline pointed to “Evidence Showing Campaign to Form Soviet Councils and Overthrow Government.” The story claimed that those arrested were “endeavoring to bring about the establishment of a Soviet form of government in this country.”
Justice Department official William Flynn told reporters at the time, “I believe that with these raids, the backbone of the radical movement in this country is broken.”
In fact, most of those arrested seemed about as much of threat to America as the drunken guy ranting at any neighborhood bar. Nonetheless, thousands were deported. That even more were not was due in large measure to the efforts of a courageous Labor Department official, Louis Freeland Post, who stood up to Palmer and said enough is enough. [Continue reading…]