Is Donald J. Trump The J. Parnell Thomas Of Today?
My old pal Steven Baker was putting together the soundtrack for the film Trumbo a year or so ago and he was all excited about the story and told me about it and I did a brief post about, in effect, a film-in-the-making, Embracing the Darkness of our own History: Trumbo. The movie Trumbo is out now and has nominations in several categories for an Academy Award, a Critics' Choice Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award and, among others, a Writers Guild of America Award. The cast includes Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo, Louis C.K., John Goodman and James DuMont as one of the arch-villains in this dark chapter of American history, Congressman J. Parnell Thomas (R-NJ). This is historical footage of the real Parnell. Up top you can see DuMont's portrayal of Parnell at about 40 seconds in.
He's dead and mostly forgotten now, except when people ask who, historically, was the biggest asshole from the House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC) hearings and the notorious blacklisting trials that followed. I'm writing about him today primarily because I saw how Trump has been calling Bernie a "Communist" the same way J. Parnell Thomas always called FDR a "Communist," and for all the same reasons. Like Trump, Parnell was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and a crony of Roy Cohn's, in Thomas' day, an aide to fascist Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy, and more recently, Trump's degenerate, Mob-connected attorney.
Thomas, who lived in Allendale in the northeast corner of New Jersey (Bergen County) was a Wall Street broker before getting involved in politics in the area that is now represented, suitably in terms of Thomas' disgraceful legacy, by the most right-wing Republican in New Jersey politics, Scott Garrett, another Wall Street stooge. Thomas was narrowly elected to Congress in 1935-- when the GOP incumbent died-- as one of the most vicious opponents of FDR and the New Deal, both of which, he claimed "sabotaged the capitalist system." In the late '40s he was named chairman of HUAC and was soon on a personal crusade against Defense Secretary James Forrestal. He was the bain of Hollywood's film industry and turned HUAC into a modern day version of the Grand Inquisition, with himself in the role of Grand Inquisitor. His first witnesses were right-wing rats-- Ayn Rand, Jack Warner, Walt Disney, Robert Montgomery, Gary Cooper, George Murphy and, of course, Ronald Reagan-- who turned in their colleagues on spurious, trumped up charges of possibly communistic sympathies. Trumbo was one of them, and Parnell Thomas' second victim. When asked if he was a member of the Screen Actors Guild, Trumbo refused to answer and responded:
"[T]he rights of American labor to inviolably secret membership have been won in this country by a great cost of blood and a great cost in terms of hunger. These rights have become an American tradition. Over the Voice of America we have broadcast to the entire world the freedom of our labor... You asked me a question which would permit you to haul every union member in the United States up here to identify himself as a union member, to subject him to future intimidation and coercion. This, I believe is an unconstitutional question."Thomas accused him of being a Communist, just as he had accused President Roosevelt of the same "crime." Thomas ruined the lives of countless Americans with his baseless smears and pointless witch-hunt, all the while running a congressional payroll kickback scam to enrich himself at the expense of the taxpayers. He would put his friends on the official congressional payroll and they had no work to do and would-- quite illegally-- share their salaries with him.
Thomas was eventually exposed, tried, found guilty of fraud, forced to resign from Congress in disgrace, heavily fined and sentenced to serve 18 months in the same federal penitentiary where several of the Hollywood Ten were serving time (for nothing). His crackpot far-right wife decided to run for his seat but she got no political traction and soon dropped out. Described by Time magazine as a "pudgy, petulant man," he served less than 9 months and after getting out of prison, started a weekly rightist newspaper in Bergen County and was soon defeated in another run for his old congressional seat (in 1954). He later moved to Florida and died, a bitter, angry crank, in 1970.
It comes as natural for Republicans like the thuggish Trump to try to smear Bernie as a Communist as it did for Parnell Thomas to try to smear FDR with the same charge. The New Deal, which is historically credited with saving capitalism from the communists or fascists of the day is, basically exactly what Bernie is proposing, in updated fashion, today. And keep in mind, as the GOP marched around screeching FDR was a Commie, he won 42 states (all but 6) in 1932 (22,821,277 to 15,761,254 for incumbent Republican President Herbert Hoover) and then 46 states in 1936 (27,747,636 to 16,679,543 for Kansas Gov. Alf Landon, who lost Kansas). Help keep fascism at bay by tapping the thermometer: