Newt Gingrich
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Before there was presumptive nominee Donald Trump, there was Ann Coulter. What these two share in common is the fact that they have gained notoriety (and money) from saying truly outrageous things.

In one of my favorite “point and laugh” moments, Al Franken came up with the perfect reply to Coulter attempting to earn her paycheck by spreading shock. At a forum hosted by Steve Roberts, they were asked who in history they would want to be.

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Of course, when Coulter says that Joe McCarthy is the historical figure that she thinks had the most fun, we all gasp – with good reason. That’s exactly what she’s going for. Fortunately, by the time that clip is over, Franken makes mincemeat of her nonsense.

But lately we’ve been seeing that Senator McCarthy’s witch hunts are something that the right seems to be pretty nostalgic about. Not only do we hear insinuations that President Obama sympathizes with Muslims, several conservative politicians and leaders have suggested that the U.S. government has been infiltrated by them in the same way that McCarthy used to talk about communists. And then former House Speaker Newt Gingrich goes on Fox News and says this:

Let me go a step further, because remember, San Bernardino, Fort Hood, and Orlando involve American citizens. We’re going to ultimately declare a war on Islamic supremacists and we’re going to say, if you pledge allegiance to ISIS, you are a traitor and you have lost your citizenship. And we’re going take much tougher positions. In the late 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt was faced with Nazi penetration in the United States. We originally created the House Un-American Activities Committee to go after Nazis. We passed several laws in 1938 and 1939 to go after Nazis and we made it illegal to help the Nazis. We’re going to presently have to go take the similar steps here.

What Gingrich left out is that the House Un-American Activities Committee also produced the argument for Japanese internment camps and, after the conclusion of WWII, became the mirror of McCarthy’s hunt for communist conspirators (but they refused to investigate the KKK because it was “an old American institution”).

We’ve recently witnessed conservatives making the argument that slavery, Jim Crow and Japanese internment really weren’t that bad. Now they’re harkening back to witch hunts. These are truly some of the most shameful periods in American history. I really try to avoid being an alarmist, but when they say that they want to take our country back in order to be great again, it is becoming increasingly clear that this is the kind of thing they have in mind.

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