The Native American Party was started in response to the collapse of the Whig party as well as the large influx of German and Italian immigrants, especially the fact that they were primarily Catholic and didn’t know English. It has grown to have the nickname of the Know Nothing party, not because the followers were stupid and “knew nothing”, but because they were instructed when confronted about their bigotry, they said that they Know Nothing about what the speaker in asking or implying.
The members of the party were generally middle class Protestants who hated Catholics and felt they were “Native Americans”. The American Party fell apart over internal battles over slavery, and while they claimed Millard Fillmore as a candidate, Fillmore himself disavowed membership.
After the party’s dissolution, the term “Know Nothing” party became a political insult used by both political parties to paint the other as filled with people who didn’t know anything, rather than the secret and bigoted nature of the original term.
However, the tactic of “I don’t know about that” is still used by politicians in order to appeal to specific groups, especially when confronted about connections with Racism. In fact, it was on full display this weekend.
The more you know.