I’ve mentioned before that this country enjoys the distinction as the world’s first Dreyfusard nation.
In many respects, we were inoculated against the anti-Dreyfusard sickness and bigotry that enveloped France in the late 19th century.
This American Dreyfusard tradition can be traced to George Washington’s response to a letter from Moses Seixas, the warden of Congregation Kahal Kadosh Yeshuat Israel in Newport, Rhode Island, imploring the newly installed president to adhere to a policy that provided bigotry no quarter.
Washington’s magnanimous response embodied many of the principles that Seixas had outlined in his letter:
The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.
Simply put, one could be an American whether one happened to be a Jew, a Catholic or an African American — at least, that is the way things worked out over time. For many decades following the Civil War, my ancestral party, the GOP, provided the safest harbor for these these uniquely American values.
A young and earnest Austrian immigrant named Arnold Schwarzeneger has reflected more than once on how he was drawn to the GOP on the basis of its embrace of individualism, personal empowerment, democratic capitalism, and an expansive and enlightened view of citizenship.
My party, associated with the likes of Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, once proudly marched under the banner of progress and principle. And that is why I regard the imminent nomination of Donald Trump, a practitioner of the black art of identity politics, with profound sadness. His nomination marks the decline and ultimate demise of one of Western civilization’s grandest political parties and the Dreyfusard values it once held dearly.