The causes of McCarthyism reach back to the early 1900's with the first Red Scare. Other causes include the Russian expansion after World War II, the Truman doctrine and Marshall plan, the Berlin Blockade and creation of NATO, the loss of the China Hands and the "fall" of China, the Atomic Spy cases, the police action in Korea, the Truman loyalty oaths, and the McCarran Act. These factors contributed to the public fear of communist expansion. There was, however, another important pre-condition; there had been nearly 20 years of progressivism and the public was tired of it, they could not keep up with the changes. The common men who were down and out in the 30's would tolerate the changes because they wanted economic conditions to improve; by 1950, the common men had been brought out of the depression and had a lot of buying power. Now that they personally did not need more improvement, they forgot the past, and went against the `New' Dealism that they associated with Communism.
Joseph McCarthy was born in a small town in 1909. During the depression, he held several jobs, including a grocery store manager. He took one year of high school and graduated at 21. He then went to Marquette University. After practicing law for a Republican party leader. Soon he ran for District Attorney with the Democratic party and lost. After changing back to Republicanism, the party in power at the time, he was elected circuit court judge. While in this role, he paid little attention to laws and justice, he was more interested in making things easy for his friends in business. In 1942, without quitting his job as judge, he joined the Marines and stayed there as a desk clerk for 2 years. He used this time to build his image at home as a heroic tail-gunner. In 1946, he defeated Robert M. LaFollette as senator in Wisconsin by using a huge campaign budget.
McCarthyism was an attitude that was named after McCarthy because he personified it. McCarthyism is the use of intimidation and unfounded accusations in the name of fighting communism. It is a lack of intelligent discussion, the presumption of guilt instead of innocence, and the idea of guilt by association. Truman's Federal Employee Loyalty Program prevented openly criticizing American foreign policy, advocating equal rights for women, owning books on socialism, and attending foreign films; these clearly contradict the principles on which America was formed. A person accused of being a Communist could not fight back because social sanctions would be imposed before any sort of trial or reply was allowed. The people imposing these social sanctions did not care for facts; they wanted someone to blame. Because of this fear of accusation, conformity was rampant; this had an effect on government because people in high positions would be surrounded by subordinates who would never challenge an upper decision. This cut off the leaders from any new ideas.
Alger Hiss was a graduate of Harvard Law School who had served as a `New' Dealer under Roosevelt and had even gone to Yalta as a member of Roosevelt's staff. To the average American, the `New' Deal seemed similar to Communism in several ways: they were to uplift the masses, they were against lassaiz-faire and for economic controls, and they both questioned the traditional ways. These, along with the fact that the US helped Russia in the WWII under FDR helped link Communism and `New' Dealism in the common man. Once these were linked, it was easy to come to the conclusion that FDR and the `New' Deal must have conspired to convert America to Communism! Hiss symbolized, to the American public, the `New' Deal and all that went with it. Nixon, HUAC, and the American people were desperately looking for someone to blame for this conspiracy, and Hiss was that person. Dubious proof was found, in a pumpkin patch, and he was finally found guilty of perjury.
McCarthy was not dedicated to finding Communists in America as his primary purpose; he was ambivalent to this before he needed a cause to fight for for re-election. McCarthy was really looking for `New' Dealers, not only because the public already had negative feelings about them, but because it would keep his party in power in government and recapture lost congressional power. Later, he would come into conflict with the State Department, President Eisenhower, and the Army. This conflict was not for any high moral standards, it was because they did not like him infringing on their authority.
The conflict between McCarthy and the Army began because McCarthy tried to arrange preferential treatment for one of his friends. The Army kept a record of the calls he made, and then later released them. This incensed McCarthy and he made wild accusations that the Army was filled with Communists. This lead to the Army-McCarthy hearings. These hearings were 36 days long and televised. McCarthy's brutishness and rashness lead to his demise in the eyes of the public. There were several main points that hurt McCarthy. First, Army counsel Joseph Welch showed that McCarthy had a photo altered to make Secretary of the Army Stevens look like he had had a private discussion with the head of the Communist Party in America. This was supposed to make Stevens look guilty by association in the eyes of the public. Second, McCarthy produced a letter supposedly from J. Edgar Hoover that confirmed that there were Communists in high places in the Army. This was shown to be a hoax and forgery. Third, McCarthy said "Twenty, I mean twenty-one years of treason." This included the New Deal for 20 years and it implied that Eisenhower was also a traitor. This was a bad move because the public liked Ike. Finally, when Welch tries to get the list of names of supposed communists from Cohn "by sundown," McCarthy explodes by trying to accuse a young aide that Welch had once employed in his personal staff. McCarthy was trying to implicate him because he once attended Lawyer Guild meetings. Welch stopped the discussion by saying, "Until this moment Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" The crowd applauded Welch. This marked the end of McCarthy.
McCarthyism has had an effect on the American people ever since its creation. It hurt the morale in the State Department and Army. This lead young educated people, the best and the brightest, not to go into government, which was left with second rate leaders who were more loyal than they were intelligent. An example is that the China Hands , who were experts on Eastern politics, were dismissed and replaced with people who told their superiors only what they wanted to hear. This lead to the mistakes made during the Chinese revolution; it was considered a loss because the new leader was forced to be against the US. The lack of these China Hands also lead to more problems in Korea and Viet Nam. A lasting effect of McCarthyism was that the presidents, including Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Reagan, did not want to seem "soft on communism," so they took the drastic step of supporting any group in power in any country that was against communism. This included far right wing dictators, as well, who were like the Mussolinis and Hitlers fought in WWII. There was no discussion in America, which, when applied to government actions, was disastrous. An example is that the Bay of Pigs invasion was a complete failure because it lacked careful planning and consideration in the name of secrecy. This lead to the Imperial Presidency, which was a growth in power of the president. An imperial president was isolated, shielded by his subordinates who were simply yes-men. Unethical violent actions, such as ordered assassinations of leaders of other countries, were perpetrated in the name of National Security. This secrecy leads to the Watergate scandal, which lead to a tremendous loss of trust in America and its institutions. The people were even more disappointed when Ford pardoned Nixon. This lead to Carter being elected; he was not qualified, but he was honest, and the public was tired of the corrupt leaders. Carter failed in several ways; inflation was near 20%, and he was unable to negotiate the return of some hostages. This hurt the national prestige; America could defeat Germany and Japan, but could not get back several hostages. By this time, the American people were tired of government. This frustration lead to the election of Ronald Reagan, who promised a "return to the good old days." The 80's, like the 20's and 50's was a party decade, which could lead to a depression in the 90's. During Reagan's reign, the national debt triples, Iran-gate occurs, and a lack of government controls makes disasters such as the Savings and Loan scandal and the insider trading on the stock market by the likes of Ivan Boesky possible. While Reagan and Bush spend billions on defense, the infrastructure of America deteriorates, education is not a national issue, there is a lack of unified health care and mass transit, and housing and job issues are ignored. During this time the relative size of the middle class is reduced, which decreases the number of actively involved participants in the Democratic process.
It is important to realize that the McCarthyesque idea of ignorant persecution did not come into being in 50 s, but had already existed for hundreds of years, with such historical examples such as the Spanish Inquisition and the Salem Witch Hunts. A more modern manifestation of the McCarthy mindset would be that once someone has been accused of sexual harassment, they are shunned socially, whether they are finally found guilty or not. It can be applied even in a broader sense as a tendency to not discuss things openly; a local example would be that many people in Hartland did not want the book Daddy's Roommate in the Pauline Haass Public Library. Another example would be the war over Outcome Based Education that erupted several years ago and is still going on in this district. Everyone has a different idea, and they all want to point fingers and blame, without getting the facts out in the open and discussing them coolly and rationally. Yet another example of ignorance and hate would be that many people in Hartland are against Satanism, while there are very few who actually know what it is about. It is important to realize that the repercussions of even a relatively short period of McCarthyism have long-lasting effects; during the short time he had power, Joseph McCarthy left his mark on history, which is still influencing leaders today.