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How Trump’s Grandparents Became Reluctant Americans

How Trump’s Grandparents Became Reluctant Americans

The Past in Colorfeatures the work of colorist Marina Amaral, bringing to life black and white photos with color applied digitally.

The German barber, restaurant-owner and property speculator Friedrich Trump and his young wife Elisabeth did not intend to spend their married life in the United States. Both had been born in the small town of Kallstadt, in the Pfalz (or Palatinate) region in southwestern Germany, not far from the French border.

As a young man in the 1880s Friedrich had left Europe to seek his fortune in America during the Gold Rush, heading to Washington State and the Yukon to open hotel-restaurants catering to gold-diggers. After marrying Elisabeth in 1901 the couple moved to New York. But by 1904 she had grown homesick and they returned to make a living in their homeland.

Yet their homeland rejected them, because Friedrich Trump had broken the law. By going to the U.S. he had skipped Germany’s compulsory military service. As punishment his German citizenship was revoked. Trump groveled and begged to the authorities, writing to a local prince to ask “Why should we be deported? This is very, very hard for a family.”

But it did no good. Cast out from the land of their birth, on June 30th 1905 the Trumps followed so many others of the world’s poor, huddled masses, yearning to be free, and traveled once again to the United States.

The photograph
This photograph appears to show Friedrich and Elisabeth at an early point in their marriage. It is sometimes dated to 1918, the year of Friedrich’s death. But since the couple appear without any of their three children it is more likely to have been taken between late 1902 and 1904, when they were living in New York for the first time. Reconstructing the colors in the photograph required both historical research and technical analysis of the data within the black-and-white original.

We can tell even in grayscale that Friedrich’s eyes were bright; color images of his descendants—including the current President of the United States, Donald J. Trump—suggest with near-100-percent certainty that Friedrich had a distinctively Germanic combination of pale blue-grey eyes and sandy-blond hair.

Life in America
A U.S. immigration official who encountered Friedrich Trump in the late 19th century recorded his surname as ‘Trumpf.’ It is possible that the official misheard Trump’s German accent and added the final ‘f’ in error. Certainly the consonant was little heard of again.

Friedrich avoided trouble during the First World War, Americanizing his name to Frederick as anti-German sentiment in New York ran high. But in 1918 he died aged just 49: a victim of the influenza pandemic that swept the United States that year. Elisabeth, however, lived until the age of 86. She took a keen interest in real estate and founded a property company called Elizabeth Trump & Son (her name also now subtly Americanized). She ran this business with her eldest son Fred C. Trump until her death in 1966.

The descendant
In 1971 the real estate company was handed over to Fred’s second son Donald J. Trump, who renamed it, then parlayed his grandmother and father’s real estate millions into further property ownership and a career as a TV personality.

On January 20th 2017, nearly a century after his grandfather’s death, Donald J. Trump was inaugurated as 45th President of the United States. A close-run presidential election had turned in part on Trump’s vigorous nationalist rhetoric, in which he blamed many of the United States’ problems on immigrants.

Aquai/Aquine, a site to answer questions from our main website

It grew to build and manage single-family houses in Queens , barracks and garden apartments for U.S. Navy personnel near major shipyards along the East Coast , and more than 27,000 apartments in New York City.

Trump was investigated by a U.S. Senate committee for profiteering in 1954, and again by the State of New York in 1966.

Sound a little familiar?

Donald became the president of his father's real estate business in 1971, and they were sued by the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division for violating the Fair Housing Act in 1973.

Sound a little familiar?

In later years, Fred conducted

to benefit Donald,

Sound a little familiar?

suffered from

Sound a little familiar?

In 1997, when his worth exceeded a billion dollars, he transferred the majority of his buildings to his surviving children, who sold them in 2004 for over 16 times their previously declared worth, effectively dodging hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes .

Sound a little familiar?

Fred Trump, who had obfuscated his German ancestry to avoid upsetting Jewish friends and clients.

Sound a little familiar?

Sound a little familiar?

Ku Klux Klan members being confronted by police in Queens on Memorial Day 1927

On Memorial Day in 1927, over a thousand Ku Klux Klan members marched in a Queens parade to protest "Native-born Protestant Americans " being "assaulted by Roman Catholic police of New York City". [20]

The 21-year old Trump and six other men were arrested.

All seven were referred to as "berobed marchers" in the Long Island Daily Press

Trump, detained "on a charge of refusing to disperse from a parade when ordered to do so", was dismissed.

Another of the men, arrested on the same charge, was a bystander who had had his foot run over by a police car. According to the police, the five remaining men were certainly Klan members.

Multiple newspaper articles on the incident list Trump's address (in Jamaica, Queens ), which he is recorded as sharing with his mother in the 1930 census and a 1936 wedding announcement.

In September 2015, Boing Boing reproduced the article,

and Fred's son Donald Trump , then a candidate for president of the United States , told The New York Times , "that's where my grandmother lived and my father, early on."

Then, when asked about the 1927 story, he denied that his father had ever lived at that address, and said the arrest "never happened", and, "There was nobody charged."

But for decades, Trump denied this German heritage altogether, instead claiming that his grandfather’s roots lay further north, in Scandinavia. “[He] came here from Sweden as a child,” Trump asserted in his co-written book The Art of the Deal . In fact, his cousin and family historian John Walter told The New York Times ,

'It Makes Me Sick With Grief': Trump's Presidency Divided Families. What Happens to Them Now?

S tacey Pavesi Debré&rsquos young daughters had a habit when they saw President Donald Trump on TV in their Paris apartment. They&rsquod hold their noses and boo. That is, until Stacey&rsquos mother Lonnie Pavesi came to visit for a week, to help take care of her grandchildren. After she left, the elder Debré child, who was about 7, had some strong words for her mother. &ldquoMom, you lied to me,&rdquo she said. &ldquoYou told me Trump was bad. Actually he&rsquos not. Ama told me he&rsquos making America better.&rdquo

It transpired that Lonnie had mixed in some political discourse with her grandmotherly duties. &ldquoShe had brainwashed our daughters behind our back,&rdquo says the girls&rsquo father, Guillaume Debré, with amusement. He&rsquos a French journalist who has written a book on Trump, but he maintains that he does not have as intense feelings about him as his American wife. &ldquoI was like, This is getting out of hand. The mother and the grandmother are fighting for the soul of their granddaughter. This is crazy. Even the French people don&rsquot do this.&rdquo

Disagreements about politics have been the specter of every family get-together since dinner was invented. But after one of the most divisive presidential administrations in U.S. history followed by an election the outgoing leader claims was fraudulent (without any evidence that has stood up in court) and an attack on the Capitol, those rifts are as wide as anyone can remember. A postelection Pew Research Center survey found that fewer than 2% of voters felt those who voted for the other party understood them very well, and only 13% of Joe Biden&rsquos voters and 5% of Donald Trump&rsquos voters expressed any desire for future unity.

President Biden won the election partly on the promise that he would heal the fissures between those who voted for him and those who voted for Trump. &ldquoNow it is time to turn the page,&rdquo he said in a speech after the Electoral College affirmed his victory. &ldquoTo unite. To heal.&rdquo

For some families, that is going to be a very heavy lift.

An October study from the University of Missouri found that since 2016, family interactions have been more likely to drive highly partisan relatives apart than bring them together. One of the authors, associate professor of communication Ben Warner, says he had initially thought that having a family member who was on the opposite side of the aisle might lead to less stereotyping or dismissing of that person and their views. The study proved him wrong. &ldquoFor people who are highly polarized, having a parent or child who is a member of the other party didn&rsquot make things any better,&rdquo he says. &ldquoAnd it looked like it probably made things even worse, perhaps because it was such a point of tension in their family dynamic.&rdquo

So it is not surprising that most of the dozens of people TIME spoke to for this story didn&rsquot want their names used. One woman said she has found it difficult to maintain communication with her Trump-loving twin sister another said she has found herself trying to be the bridge between her African-American children and her white father. A mother of five began to feel increasingly isolated from her children and six siblings because of her support for Trump. One Black woman wept as she recalled helping her white mother register to vote for the first time, knowing she would vote to re-elect the then President.

Every parent spoke of how much they cherish their children, despite their differences. Most of the offspring, in turn, talked about how they believed their parents were good people. But a lot of people have quietly blocked family members on social media, or speak sadly of siblings or grandparents with whom they surreptitiously try to avoid spending time, and they worry that talking about it will further inflame the feud. Nevertheless, several families gamely tried to explain their differing points of view and how they were trying to navigate them.

In October, Gary and Mary Bliefnick of Missouri texted their son Soren and his sister Amy that they wanted to visit their children in early November instead of for Thanksgiving. They wondered if everyone could &ldquocommit to ignoring politics.&rdquo Soren texted back: &ldquoIf you think Trump should be able to be re-elected, then we will have a problem regardless of the time of year.&rdquo His father asked what kind of problem. &ldquoI said, &lsquoA moral problem,&rsquo&rdquo says Soren. &ldquoAnd it just kind of went from there.&rdquo

Soren, who lives in Los Angeles, finds it incomprehensible that the same parents who taught him the importance of civility, politeness and decency could have supported President Trump. He is mystified as to why they couldn&rsquot see the same homophobic and racist behavior and instincts that he saw, and why they didn&rsquot recognize that a vote for Trump was a vote against justice. &ldquoThey voted for him for a second term for vague reasons that are more important to them than undermining my rights,&rdquo he says. &ldquoIt was so incredibly hurtful that they would do something like that and seem to be so either oblivious or indifferent.&rdquo And once his father became convinced the election was fraudulent, he wished &ldquothey could see what I see, because then they would know why it makes me sick with grief.&rdquo

His parents meanwhile are equally mystified as to why their son can&rsquot let them vote for whom they want to vote for. &ldquoFor me,&rdquo says Mary, &ldquoit was very hurtful that neither of our kids could appreciate our decision to make our own decision based upon the things that we thought were important,&rdquo which for her were largely around law and order. His father sees it simply as identity politics. &ldquoHe basically thinks Trump is anti-gay,&rdquo says Gary Bliefnick, who says he didn&rsquot vote in 2016 but liked what Trump had done with the economy and employment levels and in standing up to the media, and so cast his ballot for him in 2020. He has no problem with the fact his son is gay but feels the President represented no real threat to LGBTQ rights.

Experts say family political disagreements can chafe more than disagreements among friends or colleagues, because of how deeply humans identify with their family members, how much they feel they come from the same place. In 2016, Bill Doherty, a University of Minnesota social-science professor and family therapist, co-founded Braver Angels, an organization that runs workshops to help people of differing political views talk to one another. &ldquoThe two biggest reasons people give for coming to the workshops are that they&rsquore worried about polarization in the country,&rdquo he says, &ldquoand they&rsquore worried about their families.&rdquo So many families approached the group for help in 2020 that it began offering online family political sessions, where volunteer moderators take people through a series of exercises to help them engage with family members who have strongly different political opinions. Doherty also added a lecture on political divisions to the postgraduate family-therapy courses he teaches.

Gary and Mary Bliefnick attribute their differences at least in part to geography. They feel their son changed when he went to college, and here Gary adjusts his tone slightly, in Boston. &ldquoI think my son and my daughter were&mdashwell, my choice of words would be warped&mdashin the wrong direction about how awful America is,&rdquo he says. &ldquoThey&rsquore teaching them a different history than I learned.&rdquo

The Bliefnicks&rsquo experience mirrors a 2018 study that showed that families in which the hosts and guests lived in different, highly partisan areas spent up to 50 minutes less over the 2016 Thanksgiving dinner than families who didn&rsquot. The researchers estimated that this led to a cumulative loss of almost 34 million hours of family time.

Another issue making these schisms harder to deal with is that political preference is a more all-encompassing set of beliefs than it used to be, what academics call a &ldquomega-identity.&rdquo If you are Republican, you don&rsquot just believe in low taxes and robust defense spending. You&rsquore more likely to be white, evangelical, and from a rural or small-town environment. And if you&rsquore gay, African American or Latinx, and you live in a city, you&rsquore more likely to vote Democratic. It&rsquos not just about policy.

In many ways, the Pavesi clan embodies these identity differences. The senior Pavesis, who live in a small red outpost in Northern California, are devout Christians, and have been on mission and mercy trips all over the world. Stacey&rsquos father Dave Pavesi was in the military. Stacey has spent most of her career in media and event planning, and the Debrés are more secular. Guillaume&rsquos father is a French politician, and Guillaume was a correspondent for French TV in D.C. But for the elder Pavesis, politics takes a back seat to faith. &ldquoAt the end of the day when everybody goes home, it doesn&rsquot really change our life any,&rdquo says Dave. &ldquoI don&rsquot believe either of us are persuaded by our individual arguments. That&rsquos why I tend to avoid it more than not.&rdquo

Stacey, for whom politics is more important, describes the situation differently. To her, it felt as if Trump&rsquos election altered her parents&rsquo behavior. &ldquoThere&rsquos sort of a bubbling over, this need to express themselves politically. It&rsquos completely foreign to me,&rdquo she says. And she&rsquos distressed by what she hears. Her father maintains that the election was stolen and that the attack on the Capitol was &ldquoa slight overreaction,&rdquo the result of frustration over &ldquoproblems with the election which are being ignored rather than lawfully investigated.&rdquo When Stacey tried to dissuade her parents of that view, she says her mother announced she didn&rsquot want to talk politics anymore.

This time-honored way of handling such issues&mdashjust not talking about it&mdashis not a viable option, however, for many families, because people are apt to air their views on social media anyway and also because it puts distance between people who are used to discussing things openly. Dr. Paul Groen and his son, also called Paul, are both very serious about their Christian faith, and talk about it regularly, but find their beliefs lead them to different conclusions. The elder Groen, 84, who for half his 50-year career as a physician was founding hospitals in Africa and now spends his days visiting those in his retirement community who are isolated because of COVID-19 restrictions, declines to say whom he voted for in 2020, but says it&rsquos not hard to guess because he believes in small government. &ldquoI don&rsquot condone a lot of his antics,&rdquo he says of the 45th President, &ldquobut I think a lot of things he&rsquos done have been good.&rdquo He lays the blame for the current divisions more at the feet of Congress and its push to impeach the first time, and he doubts Biden will be able to offer much in the way of unity.

His son, an opera singer who lives in London, says he finds it hard to overlook Trump&rsquos cuts to the number of refugees, disparagement of women, mishandling of the virus and use of &ldquoalternative facts.&rdquo For families like the Groens, the new landscape is difficult to navigate&mdashit&rsquos like they&rsquore reading different maps. &ldquoI don&rsquot know how to have a conversation with family when you can&rsquot agree on facts,&rdquo says the younger Groen. Dr. Groen doesn&rsquot really follow the news, while his son regards a grasp of current affairs as important. &ldquoAs a Christian,&rdquo he continues, &ldquowhat I find fundamentally disturbing is the abandonment of the idea that there is objective truth.&rdquo

The end of the Trump presidency doesn&rsquot mean the end of the Trump era&mdashor that the barriers between those who disagree with each other are dissolving. Despite the disputes, most of these families are still intact and finding ways to hang on to their relationships. There are many voters, however, for whom the bridges seem to be irrevocably burned. This is the group in which Lynette Villano has landed.

As recently as April 2016, Villano&rsquos older sister, Susan Paraventi, took her and three relatives on a girls&rsquo trip to the Florida Keys for Villano&rsquos 70th birthday. Several years earlier, Paraventi had rushed to her sister&rsquos side to help when Villano&rsquos son had a medical procedure. Now the sisters never speak. Villano, from eastern Pennsylvania, is also estranged from two of her children. She says she was invited to Thanksgiving in 2018 and then uninvited when other family members protested.

Villano has always been a political enthusiast and a Republican, both traits she shared with her now deceased mother. When she ran to be the local delegate, she says, the rest of her family cheered her along. But things shifted, some of her family say, as soon as Trump came down the escalator at Trump Tower in 2015 and announced his candidacy. &ldquoIt&rsquos just all Trump all the time with her,&rdquo says Paraventi, who lives in Massachusetts. Villano&rsquos social media fervor&mdashher constant celebration of Trump&rsquos behavior, family, opinions and denigration of his enemies&mdashrankled other relatives, who felt she was hyping him to advance her own political career.

At one point, she shared selected texts from family members with a reporter, who put them in a book in a chapter titled &ldquoTrump&rsquos Biggest Fan.&rdquo These missives, which her relatives say were edited to make them look bad and were used without permission, led to their receiving threatening messages. (They requested that TIME not use their names, citing safety concerns.) But Villano says she has also suffered. &ldquoI don&rsquot think people realize how much hatred Trump supporters get,&rdquo she says.

For a while, Paraventi blocked her sister on social media but kept talking to her. Things reached a low just before Christmas 2019, when Villano, a two-time cancer survivor, was in New York City for medical reasons and Paraventi was there for a Bob Dylan concert (she has been to Dylan concerts in 48 states and several countries). The sisters planned a museum trip together. Their stories differ in some details, but they agree that just before meeting, Paraventi asked Villano to remove the large Trump flag pin she always wore, and in return she would wear no political regalia. Villano, who considers the pin her signature, declined. The excursion was called off. Paraventi&rsquos husband went to his sister-in-law and tried to coax the two together, to no avail. &ldquoMy mother is rolling in her grave,&rdquo says Paraventi. &ldquoThe one thing she always said was that she just wanted her children to get along. We were a very close family.&rdquo

As far as Villano is concerned, her relatives are the ones being unreasonable. &ldquoIf I was a good mother, sister and aunt all these years, and they loved me, what changed?&rdquo she asks. &ldquoNothing changed about me. This is who I am. I support a candidate because of where they stand on the issues.&rdquo Her sister disagrees. She has other Trump-supporting relatives, but they don&rsquot talk about it so much, or choose to promote the President if it has a negative effect on the rest of the family. &ldquoI think it changed her,&rdquo says Paraventi. &ldquoAnd the way she supported him changed my feelings toward her. I can&rsquot see how she doesn&rsquot understand some of the harm he&rsquos done to this country.&rdquo

In some ways, disagreements within families have surfaced for the same reasons they have rumbled across the U.S. and even the planet. Trump is a divisive figure. Different generations have different values. People tend to take on the culture of the region they live and work in. The decline of trust in such institutions as the media, the church and the courts has left the two sides with no agreed-upon set of premises from which to start. Social media encourages people to live in an echo chamber and keeps amplifying views that could once be kept quiet for the sake of harmony. The pandemic has widened the chasm, since people don&rsquot get to do things together. (One woman remarked that if she saw her estranged cousin, she&rsquos pretty sure the muscle memory would lead her to hug her.) And, perhaps with fewer blockbusters, sports games and social events to discuss, and an unfiltered leader tweeting regularly until recently, politics has become the most tempting source of conversational fodder.

But even more than that, in the Trump era, many Americans don&rsquot see voting as a decision about a set of policies, they see it as a moral imperative, an act that will make or break the country, in a way a vote for George W. Bush or Bill Clinton wasn&rsquot. Villano, Gary Bliefnick and Dave Pavesi are steadfastly persuaded that the country has been a victim of election fraud. (Dave Pavesi insists that Biden is a puppet, whose controllers will soon be revealed.) Their left-leaning relatives are just as certain that their family members are on the wrong side of history. &ldquoMy parents professed to love America and the Constitution and all of these things, and it&rsquos like they&rsquore trying to directly undermine that,&rdquo says Soren Bliefnick.

The Groens as well as the Pavesis and Debrés are in different countries their interactions are mostly virtual and thus more tightly controlled. The Groens Zoom every week for at least an hour. &ldquoI would say we have good rapport, but I don&rsquot know what [my son] would say because we probably will never agree politically,&rdquo says Dr. Groen. &ldquoFor us it&rsquos been hard to have a low-key discussion they usually kind of get pretty energetic.&rdquo Some of the more difficult conversations are hashed out among the Pavesi clan over text. Dave Pavesi says Trump&rsquos departure probably won&rsquot change his family dynamic, which he doesn&rsquot think is that bad. He&rsquod like the election to be investigated but says, &ldquoI&rsquom not going to let that hurt my family.&rdquo Villano is not sure she can ever reconcile with her sister or other relatives. Paraventi says she has stopped missing her: &ldquoI don&rsquot know that things will get better anytime soon because she will never admit that anything she has done was over the top.&rdquo Soren Bliefnick says he thought about cutting his parents out of his life but decided against it, partly because his mother pointed out that she&rsquod never do that to him. &ldquoAs of right now, I feel separated from them more than
I have because of this,&rdquo he says. &ldquoIt&rsquos hard to want to talk to them with that sort of shadow hanging over me.&rdquo His mother Mary, &ldquosick of the entire mess,&rdquo is not confident the election was fair, but was disgusted by Trump&rsquos behavior after November when he should have been focused on COVID-19. &ldquoI just refuse to let my family be broken by politics,&rdquo she says.

Doherty, the family therapist, hopes that this relational fracturing shall pass. &ldquoPeople underestimate the tremendous pain and hurt involved in a family cutoff,&rdquo he says. &ldquoWe all need time-out sometimes from family intensity, but that&rsquos a whole different thing.&rdquo In an era dominated by a highly infectious disease, even a temporary break in communications, he notes, could be final: &ldquoSomebody gets COVID&mdashwhat, you don&rsquot call?&rdquo

Villano heard over Christmas that one of her relatives was ill. She texted a get-well message. She hasn&rsquot heard back.
&ldquoI don&rsquot think they want anything to do with me,&rdquo she says. &ldquoThe theme of Joe Biden&rsquos Inauguration is supposed to be unity, but I don&rsquot see anything taking place from him or Congress that is going to unify the country. I don&rsquot see anybody working to try and bring us together on either side. How are we ever going to get together to solve all the problems that we have?&rdquo

6 Interesting Facts About Donald Trump's Christian Faith

Many political experts will not take Donald Trump's quest for the Republican presidential nomination seriously, possibly for good reason. Trump, most notable for his vast real estate empire, wealth, bankruptcies, reality TV show, high profile divorces, and of late, his brash political statements, professes to be a Christian. As The Christian Post reported Tuesday, he even claims he would be "the greatest jobs president God ever created."

While Trump might not be popular with a large segment of the Republican Party, many voters no longer feel connected to Washington or what they see as a professional and entrenched political class. With his populist streak, Trump may appeal to these voters. Below are six facts about Donald Trump and his professed Christian faith.

1. Speaking to CBN News in May, Donald Trump declared: "I will be the greatest representative of the Christians they've had in a long time."

Specifically, Trump was talking about the Christians being slaughtered in the Middle East, especially in Syria, and according to him, Christians around the globe do not have anybody representing them. Trump also claimed it was easier for Muslims to come to the U.S. than persecuted Christians.

2. Trump says he's Presbyterian and previously attended services with the Reformed Church of America denomination.

Trump told Human Events and other news outlets that he is "a believer." In 2011, he told CBN he attended First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica Queens, which is part of the Presbyterian U.S.A. denomination. Some past articles and interviews have listed Trump as a member of the Reformed Church of America, but more recently he has said he is Presbyterian. He says he goes to church on Sunday when he can and always on Christmas, Easter, and on special occasions.

3. After previously making statements favorable toward the right to abortion, Trump now claims to be pro-life.

While Trump has a long track record of making statements and supporting candidates who were pro-abortion, he credits a friend's experience with not wanting a baby and then adoring that baby as a big reason for his shift on abortion. In January, Trump explained his position on abortion, where he allowed for limited exceptions to terminate a pregnancy and talked about his traditional views on same-sex marriage, which he said at the moment "is a state's rights' issue." In the past, Trump has said he "took a lot of heat" for being opposed to same-sex marriage.

4. When asked by Bill O'Reilly if there was a "Muslim problem in the world," Trump answered "yes."

In a 2011 interview, Trump added, "absolutely, absolutely, I don't notice Swedish people knocking down the World Trade Center." Trump backed up his statement later saying, "We have to speak the truth, this country is so politically correct, and it's falling apart."

5. Donald Trump has called the Bible "The Book, it is the thing."

In fact, he collects Bibles because he claims so many people send him Bibles. Trump says he saves and stores them because, "There's no way I would do anything negative to a Bible."

6. Trump has praised evangelical leaders Tony Perkins and Ralph Reed, saying "they have great reputations."

In 2011 Trump declared, "I recently spoke to Ralph Reed and Tony Perkins and I was really impressed, they have great reputations and I have been hearing about them for years." He added that they were "smart people."

The Trump Family’s History With the KKK

January 4, 2018

An inflatable Donald Trump balloon holding a KKK robe during the "Politicon" convention in Pasadena, California, on June 25, 2016. (Reuters / Patrick T. Fallon)

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The KKK of the 1920s had millions of members outside the South. It targeted Catholics and Jews as well as blacks, and had impressive success at electing governors and congressmen. It passed anti-immigrant restrictions that remained in effect until 1965. And Fred Trump, the president’s father, was arrested as a young man at a Klan march in New York City. Historian Linda Gordon explains—her new book is The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan and the American Political Tradition.

Plus: Nancy MacLean uncovered the deep history of the radical right’s stealth plan for America: the historical connection between the Koch brothers’ anti-government politics, the white South’s massive resistance to desegregation, and a Nobel Prize–winning Virginia economist. Nancy is an award-winning historian and the William H. Chafe professor of history and public policy at Duke University. Her Democracy in Chains was named “most valuable book” of 2017 by John Nichols on The Nation‘s Progressive Honor Roll.

Nancy MacLean on the Radical Right

Start Making Sense Twitter Start Making Sense is The Nation’s podcast, hosted by Jon Wiener and co-produced by the Los Angeles Review of Books. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts for new episodes each Thursday.

Jon Wiener Twitter Jon Wiener is a contributing editor of The Nation and co-author (with Mike Davis) of Set the Night on Fire: L.A. in the Sixties.

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Echoes of history: Trump's "movement" now has a uniform and membership cards

By Chauncey DeVega
Published April 12, 2019 7:00AM (EDT)



Donald Trump is not the president of all Americans. He only cares about himself, his voters and other sycophants. Public service is anathema to him. Patriotism is inconceivable to him as well. Democracy and the common good are antithetical to his personal values, morals and beliefs. In total, Donald Trump believes he is above the rule of law and, like a king or queen, is the literal embodiment of the state.

Donald Trump does not represent a political party so much as a social and cultural movement which seeks to destroy America's multiracial democracy and fully reinstate American apartheid.

Given his politics it is no coincidence then that Donald Trump refers to his "movement" rather than the Republican Party when speaking to his supporters: this emphasis on "movement" above party was used by the Nazis and the Third Reich to mobilize their base and its destructive energies.

Like other right-wing populist movements Trumpism has a uniform and a slogan. This is the red and white MAGA hat, the tan khaki pants worn by the white supremacist hooligans in Charlottesville and elsewhere, and the words "Make America Great Again." Trump's movement also has membership cards, which function both as a loyalty oath and marker of belonging.

The "Trump Make America Great Again Committee" sent this fundraising email on Wednesday:


Let me be clear. Since the day I took my famous escalator ride in 2015 to announce my presidential campaign, the Democrat harassment, fake news attacks, and blatant lies have never been about me.

Their target has always been you.

The liberal swamp hates the idea of people like YOU being in charge of America, and there is no line they won’t cross to prevent that from happening. Just look at the Phony Witch Hunt -- NO COLLUSION.

In 2016, I was simply your voice, but YOU were the one that took our country back and made the liberal swamp and political insiders FURIOUS.

Now headed into 2020, we have to remind them that this is your country, not theirs.

Since you’ve been such an important part of our movement, I wanted to give you this exclusive opportunity to become an Official 2019 Trump Executive Member and receive your PERSONALIZED membership card. Please contribute to activate your Official 2019 Trump Executive Membership by 11:59 PM TONIGHT and we’ll send you this beautiful PERSONALIZED card.

The one thing that keeps our movement alive is our members. I need you on my side to fight back against the lies and attacks.

This fundraising email is a distillation of the core themes and strategies Donald Trump is using to mobilize and control his followers.

There are the blatant and obvious lies about "fake news attacks," "Democratic harassment" and a "Phony Witch Hunt," along with Trump's personal favorite, "No Collusion."

Trump's political cult is nurtured and reinforced by creating a sense of personal identification and intimate connection between leader and followers, as with "YOU were the one that took our country back and made the liberal swamp and political insiders FURIOUS."

Scripted violence and stochastic terrorism are encouraged by Trump with "their target has always been you. The liberal swamp hates the idea of people like YOU being in charge of America, and there is no line they won’t cross to prevent that from happening."

A literal type of white nationalism is channeled by Donald Trump and his racial authoritarianism here: "Now headed into 2020, we have to remind them that this is your country, not theirs." This parallels the messaging of "Make America Great Again" where Trump and his regime's policies and goals really mean "Make America White Again."

When viewed in isolation Trump's messaging is dangerous enough: these are clear threats to America's democratic norms, an encouragement to political violence against liberals, nonwhites, LGBT people and other "enemies," and reinforcing a cult of personality led by a man who has contempt for American democracy and the Constitution, is clearly a pathological liar and is likely a malignant narcissist who is unmoored from reality.

When viewed in total, however, this fundraising email is something far worse. Trump is promising an authoritarian "national renewal" to his white supporters through a fake populism that nurtures feelings of grievance and victimhood -- feelings that can only be remedied through loyalty to the Great Leader and Dear Father. Political violence will be necessary -- and is already taking place across the country -- because TrumpWorld and its members believe that they are in an existential battle for survival.

Trump's "executive membership card" is actually a loyalty card meant to confer a feeling of emotional superiority over those outside of the movement. Like the MAGA hats and other Trump regalia the executive membership card is a form of permission to commit violence and other disreputable acts.

Some would object to such conclusions and claim that these membership cards are just another example of Trump's naked greed and how he is taking advantage of the rubes once again. That is correct. But it is also true and more important that authoritarian leaders -- especially in failing or failed democracies -- use the state as a way of enriching themselves and their inner circle at the expense of the public. In that way Donald Trump is part of a much larger global right-wing authoritarian kleptocracy.

In the near future, children and grandchildren will find their parents and grandparents' MAGA hats, T-shirts, and other paraphernalia. Such a moment of discovery will be akin to finding Nazi dinner plates or Ku Klux Klan robes hidden away in the closet. The moment of discovery will be shocking and embarrassing for many families. Now Donald Trump's "executive membership cards" will also be added to that cardboard box of shame.

Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a politics staff writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at Chaunceydevega.com. He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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Family Tree

First Generation (Conjugal Family)

1. Donald John Trump was born on June 14, 1946, in New York City.

Donald John Trump and Ivana Zelnickova Winklmayr were married on April 7, 1977, in New York City. They divorced on March 22, 1992. They had the following children:

i. Donald Trump Jr.: Born December 31, 1977, in New York City. He was married to Vanessa Kay Haydon from 2005 to 2018. Their five children are Chloe Sophia Trump, Kai Madison Trump, Tristan Milos Trump, Donald Trump III, and Spencer Frederick Trump.

ii. Ivanka Trump: Born October 30, 1981, in New York City. She is married to Jared Corey Kushner. Their three children are Arabella Rose Kushner, Joseph Frederick Kushner, and Theodore James Kushner.

iii. Eric Trump: Born January 6, 1984, in New York City. He is married to Lara Lea Yunaska.

Donald Trump and Marla Maples married on December 20, 1993, in New York City. They divorced on June 8, 1999. Their only child was:

i. Tiffany Trump: Born October 13, 1993, in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Donald Trump married Melania Knauss (born Melanija Knavs) on January 22, 2005, in Palm Beach, Florida. They have one child:

i. Barron William Trump: Born March 20, 2006, in New York City.

Second Generation (Parents)

2. Frederick Christ (Fred) Trump was born on October 11, 1905, in New York City. He died on June 25, 1999, in New Hyde Park, New York.

3. Mary Anne MacLeod was born on May 10, 1912, in Isle of Lewis, Scotland. She died on August 7, 2000, in New Hyde Park, New York.

Fred Trump and Mary MacLeod were married in January 1936 in New York City. They had the following children:

i. Maryanne Trump: Born April 5, 1937, in New York City.

ii. Fred Trump Jr.: Born in 1938 in New York City and died in 1981.

iii. Elizabeth Trump: Born in 1942 in New York City.

1. iv. Donald John Trump.

v. Robert Trump: Born in August 1948 in New York City.

Third Generation (Grandparents)

4. Friederich (Fred) Trump was born on March 14, 1869, in Kallstadt, Germany. He immigrated to the United States in 1885 from Hamburg, Germany aboard the ship "Eider" and acquired United States citizenship in 1892 in Seattle. He died on March 30, 1918, in New York City.

5. Elizabeth Christ was born on October 10, 1880, in Kallstadt and died on June 6, 1966, in New York City.

Fred Trump and Elizabeth Christ were married on August 26, 1902, in Kallstadt. Fred and Elizabeth had the following children:

i. Elizabeth (Betty) Trump: Born April 30, 1904, in New York City and died on December 3, 1961, in New York City.

2. ii. Frederick Christ (Fred) Trump.

iii. John George Trump: Born August 21, 1907, in New York City and died on February 21, 1985, in Boston, Massachusetts.

6. Malcolm MacLeod was born on December 27, 1866, in Stornoway, Scotland to Alexander and Anne MacLeod. He was a fisherman and crofter and also served as the compulsory officer in charge of enforcing attendance at a local school beginning in 1919 (end date unknown). He died on June 22, 1954, in Tong, Scotland.

7. Mary Smith was born on July 11, 1867, in Tong, Scotland to Donald Smith and Henrietta McSwane. Her father died when she was just over one year old, and she and her three siblings were raised by their mother. Mary died on December 27, 1963.

Malcolm MacLeod and Mary Smith were married in the Back Free Church of Scotland a few miles from Stornoway, the only town on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. Their marriage was witnessed by Murdo MacLeod and Peter Smith. Malcolm and Mary had the following children:

i. Malcolm M. MacLeod Jr.: Born September 23, 1891, in Tong, Scotland and died Jan. 20, 1983, on Lopez Island, Washington.

ii. Donald MacLeod: Born in 1894.

iii. Christina MacLeod: Born in 1896.

iv. Katie Ann MacLeod: Born in 1898.

v. William MacLeod: Born in 1898.

vi. Annie MacLeod: Born in 1900.

vii. Catherine MacLeod: Born in 1901.

viii. Mary Johann MacLeod: Born in 1905.

ix. Alexander MacLeod: Born in 1909.

3. x. Mary Anne MacLeod.

Fourth Generation (Great-Grandparents)

8. Christian Johannes Trump was born in June 1829 in Kallstadt, Germany and died July 6, 1877, in Kallstadt.

9. Katherina Kober was born in 1836 in Kallstadt, Germany and died in November 1922 in Kallstadt.

Christian Johannes Trump and Katherina Kober were married on September 29, 1859, in Kallstadt. They had one child:

4. i. Friederich (Fred) Trump.

10. Christian Christ, birth date unknown.

11. Anna Maria Rathon, birth date unknown.

Christian Christ and Anna Maria Rathon were married. They had the following child:

5. i. Elizabeth Christ.

12. Alexander MacLeod, a crofter and fisherman, was born on May 10, 1830, in Stornoway, Scotland to William MacLeod and Catherine/Christian MacLeod. He died in Tong, Scotland on January 12, 1900.

13. Anne MacLeod was born in 1833 in Tong, Scotland.

Alexander MacLeod and Anne MacLeod were married in Tong on December 3, 1853. They had the following children:

i. Catherine MacLeod: Born in 1856.

ii. Jessie MacLeod: Born in 1857.

iii. Alexander MacLeod: Born in 1859.

iv. Ann MacLeod: Born in 1865.

6. v. Malcolm MacLeod.

vi. Donald MacLeod. Born June 11, 1869.

vii. William MacLeod: Born January 21, 1874.

14. Donald Smith was born on January 1, 1835, to Duncan Smith and Henrietta MacSwane and was the second of their nine children. He was a woolen weaver and cottar (peasant farmer). Donald died on October 26, 1868, off the coast Broadbay, Scotland when a squall of wind overturned his boat.

15. Mary Macauley was born in 1841 in Barvas, Scotland.

Donald Smith and Mary Macauley were married on December 16, 1858, in Garrabost on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland. They had the following children:

i. Ann Smith: Born November 8, 1859, in Stornoway, Scotland.

ii. John Smith: Born December 31, 1861, in Stornoway.

iii. Duncan Smith: Born September 2, 1864, in Stornoway and died October 29, 1937, in Seattle.

Donald Trump, Jr. (Oldest Son)

Donald Sr. had three children with his first wife Ivana. Donald Jr., the eldest, has been managing Trump Organization assets with his brother Eric during their father's presidency. He is officially the company's executive vice president. Donald Jr. played a significant role in the 2016 campaign, and as his speech on the opening night of this week's Republican National Convention indicates, he will do the same for 2020 as well. He was married to model Vanessa Haydon for 13 years (and with whom he has five children) before their 2018 divorce. Since then he has been dating former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle.

Relationship with Russia even more complicated

During the US election campaign, Mr Trump praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a strong leader, with whom he would love to have a good relationship.

That was before US intelligence agencies determined Russia was responsible for hacking Democratic Party emails during the campaign - a conclusion that Mr Trump eventually conceded he agreed with.

The explosive publication of an unverified dossier alleging that Russia holds compromising material on Mr Trump has also raised prickly questions for him. He has batted them away, dismissing the allegations as "fake news".

But concerns over his administration's ties with Russia continue to dog his presidency, with his national security adviser Michael Flynn abruptly resigning over conversations with Russia's ambassador in the weeks before inauguration.

Mr Trump said he wanted to start off trusting President Putin but warned "it might not last long at all".

And it seems it didn't. The relationship appeared to take a sharp downward turn following a chemical attack in Syria, which was blamed on the Syrian government, and Russia's continued support for President Bashar al-Assad.

President Trump went on to say the US "may be at an all-time low in terms with our relationship with Russia". He said it would be a "fantastic thing" if the nations improved ties, but warned "it might be just the opposite".