8 Reasons Donald Trump Could Be A Modern-Day Joe McCarthy
Joseph McCarthy, U.S. Senator for the state of Wisconsin between 1947 and 1957, was, to many, the face of the fight against Communism in the United States during the fifties. In fact, his practices became so popular a term describing such anti-Communist activities was coined after his name: McCarthyism — which later became a way to characterize the practice of making unfair, unsubstantial accusations.
As Martin Lipset and Earl Raab explained in their book "The Politics of Unreason: Right-Wing Extremism in America, 1790–1977," McCarthyism was not so much of a mass movement as it was a political lampshade behind which monist tendencies in the United States united — temporarily showing their terrifying potential.
Before continuing, remember what follows is not an endorsement of any presidential candidate. Nor is it a degradation of those candidates. It is simply a look into some similarities between presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump and Joseph McCarthy.
Is Trump The New McCarthy?
Below is a look into eight reasons that could lead people to establish a comparison between Donald Trump and Joe McCarthy.
In the '50s, Americans were afraid of Communism, so it was easy for McCarthy to blame them for everything wrong with the country. Although people were not especially afraid of foreigners at the time, foreign ideas were pretty scary, and thus needed to be exorcized from the society, McCarthy argued.
Nowadays, Americans are afraid of immigrants and Muslims — for different reasons, of course. For instance, the Chapman Survey of American Fears showed almost 40 percent of Americans believe immigrants bring diseases and are more likely to commit crimes than American citizens. Other studies (like this Gallup Survey) have shown Muslim Americans are the subject of strong prejudice and more likely to experience religious discrimination.
So, it can be quite easy for a public figure like Trump to blame immigrants or Muslims for America’s “lost greatness.” For instance, Trump has repeatedly, and falsely claimed that an “Arab community” in New Jersey had cheered when the Twin Towers collapsed on September 11, and claimed that African Americans and Hispanics are more prone to crime.
Remember that, in the late '80’s Trump was already blaming another nation for America’s grievances — Japan, so this strategy is not new to him.
Manipulation of the media was a strong point for McCarthy, same as it is for Trump. They both used controversial comments and strong-worded declarations to catch the attention of readers and viewers.
In February of 1950, McCarthy said he had a list of 205 communists “working and shaping policy in the State Department.” However, the origin of the list was never revealed, and the number of people implicated rapidly dropped from 205 to just seven. His technique was quite simple: The politician implied that certain people were traitors, without actually accusing them of it. This practice included the famed “guilt by association,” Lipset and Raab expounded.
Trump has issued similar accusations, using a comparable “tone.” For instance, a few years ago, he assured that his team had looked into Obama’s origins, and discovered that he might not be American-born. “If he wasn’t born in this country, which is a real possibility…then he has pulled one of the great cons in the history of politics,” Trump is reported as having said. More recently, Trump stated that Mexico was sending its “rapists” to the United States, citing sources from the Border Patrol, among others, and claimed that Obama’s administration wanted to provide shelter for 250K refugees, instead of the originally expected 10K — once again, citing “a pretty good source.”
The initial support from their parties quickly faded as they started conceiving them as liabilities, rather than assets — check out this article for a longer review of both histories.
One of Trump’s largest mentors and most-respected advisors was the late Roy Cohn, known for his involvement with McCarthy’s witch-hunt — during his time at the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Many analysts have defined both Cohn and McCarthy as shameless. “And it was a shamelessness that Trump picked up [from Cohn] and ran with,” a The Guardian article read.
Both Trump and McCarthy arose as strong political figures after periods where liberal politics and policies had thrived — Obama’s administration in one case, the post-war liberalism in the other.
Both Trump and McCarthy presented to the public more problems than solutions. As explicated by Lipset and Raab, even though McCarthy never formulated or embraced an economic plan or a philosophy of any kind, economic conservatives backed him financially, in the hopes of seeing the democrat government displaced. Among Trump’s supporters, readers can count conservatives (of course, this point is debatable) Bob Dole, John Boehner, Dick Cheney, Reince Priebus, Rick Perry and Eric Cantor, among others.
Several quantitative analyses have suggested that McCarthy’s support came mainly from Catholics, Republicans, New England, low classes, workers, farmers, the least educated and the elderly. Last December, a Washington Post study found that Trump's supporters were mainly males, white, Catholics and counted with less formal education and lower-income.
Disclosure: Javier Hasse holds no interest in any of the entities mentioned above.
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