If anyone thinks the GOP’s descent into MAGA madness is a new chapter in American politics, either you were born after 1945 or you don’t know much about the political history of this country over the past seventy-five years.
Let’s start this history lesson with a speech delivered on February 9, 1950, by the junior Senator from Wisconsin, Joe McCarthy, who announced he ‘had a list’ of Communists who infiltrated the State Department and established a spy ring. He would later claim that similar Communist-led groups were working within the Truman Administration, The Voice of America, and the Army.
McCarthy’s chief counsel was none other than Roy Cohn, who was Donald Trump’s attorney until he admitted suffering from AIDS, at which point Trump dumped him as fast as he could. Incidentally, Cohn was later disbarred because he swiped some money out of an elderly lady’s trust. Both Michael Cohen and Rudy Giuliani also did legal work for Trump and also have been disbarred. Quite a record, I must say.
Anyway, back to McCarthy.
My parents came of age during the Great Depression, the only time in this country’s history when Americans faced famine and some actually starved. My parents were both children of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe who came over here after World War I and brought with them the usual hodgepodge of half-baked Socialist and Communist ideas.
Like just about everyone else from this kind of family background, my parents were ardent New Dealers and also supported FDR’s wartime strategy, particularly when the word got out that Hitler was shipping millions of Jews and other undesirables off to killing camps. The expression ‘concentration camp’ doesn’t really capture what you see today at Auschwitz where the entire landscape is covered by white dust that is several feet deep. The dust happens to be the ash created by the extermination through gassing then cremation of more than 500 Jews every day.
After McCarthy won a second term in 1953, he was made Chair of the Senate Committee on Government Operations, which allowed him to hold hearings on alleged Communist influence not only throughout the government, but in the private sector as well.
My father, who worked for the government during World War II, was investigated by McCarthy, along with many of his friends. All of a sudden, people who dropped by our house all the time stopped showing up because everyone with the slightest degree of left-wing sentiments believed they might show up on one of McCarthy's lists.
McCarthy was eventually censored by the Senate in 1954 after he made the mistake of taking on the Army in a series of hearings which only exposed his rampant harshness and verbal brutality to a national audience on TV. Want to take on Voice of America? Nobody cares. Want to take on the Army when most of the surviving World War II veterans were still alive? Good luck.
I was old enough to watch the Army-McCarthy hearings and when I now watch Trump whining about election ‘fraud’ or the FBI raid, I think I’m back sitting in front of our black & white, Dumont TV set, watching McCarthy rant about all those Communists at Fort Monmouth and Fort Dix.
The only difference between McCarthy then and Trump now is that the Senator from Wisconsin didn’t have an internet which he could use to rally his troops. More than 20 million Americans watched some part of the McCarthy-Army hearings on TV, but how do you compare that to the 80 million Americans who were receiving Donald Trump’s tweets? Like it or not, there are a lot of people in this country who want to believe in conspiracy theories, so just substitute the Deep State for International Communism and you’re good to go.
As a matter of fact, Trump refers to the Democrats as ‘Socialists’ and ‘Communists’ all the time. Know when that narrative first appeared? When Joe McCarthy made the 1950 speech in West Virginia (where else?) which began his anti-Communist crusade.
McCarthy lasted four years before he started to wear thin, Trump is going into his eighth year since he appeared in front of a rented crowd in the lobby of Trump Tower and announced his intention to compete in 2016. He’s also beginning to wear thin.
Since it’s a little tough to build and sustain a national political movement to protect the country against Socialism and Communism since nobody today understands what those words actually mean, to Trump’s credit he now bandies together Democrats with RINOS as enemies under the control of the Deep State.
How much longer will Trump last using a millennial revision of a narrative that first appeared in 1950, more than seventy years ago?