In case you don't know, Kris Kobach is the Secretary of State for Kansas, and the architect of the extremely harsh "show us your papers" anti-immigrant laws (that are also effectively anti-Latino, immigrant or not) that have been passed in Arizona and Alabama. He is trying to get similar legislation passed in Kansas, and in response, a group of protestors showed up at his house, leaving black shoes on his doorstep to symbolize absent family members who have been deported from their kin in the United States. It was probably a little annoying to have protestors on his front lawn, but you'd think that a man who spouts incendiary rhetoric and pushes draconian laws would expect a little blowback.
But no, Kobach termed these protestors a "mob" whose tactics resembled the KKK. That's right, a man who is an unabashed nativist actually said that. As if hearing the siren call of insane, Glenn Beck echoed Kobach in their interview. This makes Kobach and Beck either a morons or liars of the highest order (and perhaps both.) During the 1920s, at the height of its popularity, the Klan wedded its traditional terroristic enforcement of white supremacy with an intense nativism directed at immigrants, Catholics, and Jews. Their slogan was "100% Americanism," which is interesting because Kobach denounced the protest on his front lawn as "anti-American." (He also discussed using his "second amendment rights" to defend his lawn from peacefully protesting brown people, which makes me wonder who here is making the threats of violence.) In fact, Kobach is part of a long lineage of white supremacist, nativist nationalism that dates back to at least the Know-Nothings also includes the Klan. When Beck tries to claim that supporters of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants are "the same" as the Klan, he actually means the exact, total opposite.
I would also add that if the Klan came to visit a person they didn't like, they typically didn't have a peaceful protest. Oftentimes, their targets ended up dead. The protest at Kobach's house was nothing like the Klan, but a lot like the civil rights movement of the 1960s in its use of direct, non-violent action. There was absolutely no threat of violence against him or even intimidation. On the other hand, Kobach's implicit threat of violence against such protestors is rather reminiscent of Bull Connor or George Wallace.
The rise of the Tea Party right has brought with it many lies about the past, which are used to justify extremist policies in the present. Glenn Beck and Jonah Goldberg have likened liberalism to fascism, conservatives have distorted the legacy of Martin Luther King, and Kobach has now likened peaceful immigration protestors to the Klan. This practice is just about the most Orwellian thing I've ever seen, whereby extreme nationalist white supremacists claim the mantle of the civil rights movement and call their opponents fascists. Up is down, black is white, lies are facts.
The Tea Party obsession with metaphors from the past has long dumbfounded me, but now I think I understand. This is not merely a matter of legitimizing one's own perspective by recalling the past. I think the people behind these outrageous statements are aware that their ideas are echoes of the same ones that have been defeated by history, in Kobach's case, extreme nativism based on racial hierarchy. The only way to make these ideas palatable beyond the true believers is to distract people from reality by making the opponents of nativism into the very thing, the KKK, that modern day nativists resemble, but can't risk being compared to. The same works for messianic nationalists like Beck, who are the closest thing to fascist agitators that exist in this country's political mainstream. His beliefs align with historical figures like George Wallace and James Eastland, but those men are stock villains in the historical narrative nowadays. The hard Right's war on the past is necessary, because if people are aware of the realities of American history, the Right's ideas look like warmed over versions of ideologies long repudiated.
I've said it before, and I will say it again: the abuse of the past by Kobach and others requires that historians directly refute this garbage in public, lest it be taken for truth. My brethren, we must get out of the library and take to the streets and fight these crimes against the past.