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Past is Prologue: Republican Chief Executives and Politically Engineered Public Violence

Past is Prologue: Republican Chief Executives
and Politically Engineered Public Violence

By John Murphy

On Wednesday, the Nation’s Chief Executive called for vigilante violence that ended in death. Then, he condoned the violence. It’s happened before. Trump’s role model: California Governor James “Sunny Jim” Rolph.

On Sunday, four days before Thanksgiving in 1933, a press-estimated mob of five to ten-thousand men, women, and children in what is now known as Silicon Valley, California savagely cheered the assault on the county jail in San Jose and the lynching of two local white men accused of the kidnapping and murder of the son of a wealthy retailor. 

The horrific spectacle was documented by over 200 reporters, photographers, and newsreel cameramen because the lynching had been promoted repeatedly over the radio all day long throughout California. The following day, over 1.2 million newspapers were sold in the San Francisco Bay Area alone.

Factually documented in John D. Murphy’s American Incendiary Populism, the two accused men, a father of two and a man who had suffered a severe brain injury as a child who still slept in the same bedroom he grew up in, were innocent and victims of a Republican orchestrated political scheme predicated on the illusory promise of taking  the nation back from gangsters who outran and outgunned law enforcement almost daily across America at the height of the Great Depression.

Along with a number of others from prominent American families, the infant son of aviator Charles Lindbergh had been kidnapped nineteen months previously with no one yet apprehended for the crime.

The day previous to the lynching, Republican California Governor, James “Sunny Jim” Rolph refused a lawyer for one of the accused plea to call out the National Guard to manage the increasingly volatile mob outside the county jail and publicly promised to pardon anyone convicted of their lynching.

The day following the pardon promise, a body believed to be the kidnap victim was discovered in San Francisco Bay, and Governor Rolph, scheduled to attend a Western Governor’s Conference meeting in Boise, Idaho, canceled his trip to prevent Democrat Lieutenant Governor Frank Merriam from calling out the National Guard. Rolph also sent his new head of the California Highway Patrol to his neighbor’s ranch in the foothills of Santa Clara County to monitor the lynching on an open line to the county jail.

For weeks following the election of Joe Biden, President Trump, enabled by the Republican Party and Trump activist members, promoted an event in Washington, D.C., to protest— “Stop the Steal”—what he, other Republicans, and his supporters repeatedly characterized as a “rigged” election. Despite serial losses in federal courts throughout the United States because of the absence of any evidence of “rigging,” an estimated ten to twenty thousand rabid Trump supporters converged on Wednesday January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C. to hear him hold forth on how unnamed and unidentified Democrats stole the election from both him, and even more egregiously, them.

President Trump crowned his speech by announcing that he would lead the march to the capitol building at the other end of Constitution Avenue to protest the usually pro forma endorsement of the 50 state electoral votes for President of the United States.

Despite widespread promotion of the Trump speech and intention to converge on the capitol building both publicly and privately that ensued following the November election, the 2500 men and women of the capitol police force were almost fatally unprepared for the vicious assault on America’s enduring symbol of democracy. 

President Trump had just publicly claimed that he would personally lead the “Stop the Steal” march to the capitol building, but perhaps due to the other-worldly return of the bone spurs that freed him from the draft during the Vietnam War, he retreated to enjoy what he had cynically fomented on a White House television set.

Just as in California in November 1933 where anonymous members of a ‘Vigilance Committee” and the citizenry had literally received “get-out-of-jail” cards by virtue of Governor Rolph’s pardon promise—reiterated the morning following the lynching—the thousands of rabid Trump supporters inoculated with a lie serum about the “rigged” presidential election, transmogrified from legitimate protestors into insurrectionists who literally forced all members of congress and their staff into terrified hiding within the labyrinthine corridors and passageways below ground in the capitol building.

Following the 1933 California lynching, transparently bogus investigations were conducted to determine those responsible, one such examination overseen by a man later to become the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Earl Warren, who excluded both Governor Rolph and “Vigilance Committee” members from a coroner’s hearing that produced the verdict that no one could be held responsible for the lynching because no one could identify them. 

The first casualty of war is truth and it is the responsibility of each American to relentlessly verify the claims of its political parties and politicians to ensure that no action is taken unjustified by fact. The enemies of the United States revel in our collective failure to comprehensively address the compelling issues of climate change, health care, infrastructure repair, renewal, and replacement, and education among others, because political partisanship generates billions of dollars for media companies, talk radio personalities, and politicians dedicated to implacable opposition regardless of objective facts.

American incendiary populism needs to be eradicated from public discourse or we will suffer the same fate of every powerful nation in history.

Murphy, is the author of “American Incendiary Populism”. He is a founder of the University of Phoenix authored an insider account of its formation and what transpired at the nation’s first accredited for-profit university after he resigned in 1997: “Mission Forsaken: The University of Phoenix Affair with Wall Street.”Subsequently, he wrote and produced the award-winning feature film, Valley of the Heart’s Delight based on the Republican politics of the 1933 San Jose lynching starring Pete Postlethwaite, Bruce McGill, and Gabriel Mann.