Anti-Outsider Platforms

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This 1855 sheet music for “War Song of the Natives” is dedicated to the American (or Know Nothing), and reflects its resistance to “foreign” invasion through immigration. Courtesy of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill via North Carolina Digital Heritage Center.

While many outsider candidates have changed and diversified the face of the American presidency, other political platforms formed to resist perceived outsiders and their influence on American politics. These anti-outsider platforms play to xenophobic and racist fears of disenfranchised and underrepresented “others” in the US political landscape—like immigrants and African Americans—and the potential changes to the social order that they might bring when politically empowered. Fears include imagined threats of crime and intermarriage that challenged native-born white entitlement to public spaces like schools and neighborhoods and economic opportunities like jobs. These platforms promise renewed policing of social and legal boundaries that maintain the status quo. Although they have historically not been successful at achieving the presidency, anti-outsider platforms shed light on the priorities of the significant numbers of voters who support them in the context of historical climates of discrimination.

Early anti-outsider platforms in the nineteenth century included resistance to immigration and naturalization from the Know Nothing Party and post-Reconstruction rejection of black enfranchisement from southern Democrats. By the mid-twentieth century, anti-outsider platforms like that of the Dixiecrats opposed federal intervention into civil rights issues, the integration of schools and the armed forces, and the empowerment of black voters through anti-discrimination voting laws. More recently, these campaigns take stands against undocumented immigration from Mexico while playing on similar fears about jobs and crime as their predecessors.