I’ve written before about how Donald Trump is doing his best to emulate the methods employed during the 1950s by Joe McCarthy to achieve fame and power. It’s almost as if McCarthy has been re-incarnated into Donald Trumps body. McCarthy, a junior senator from Wisconsin, began a calculated mission to achieve absolute U.S. political power with a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia in February 1950. The method he employed was classical fear-mongering and appeals to mass hysteria. In that now infamous speech, McCarthy blended a mixture of right-wing demagoguery and outright lies as he appealed to people’s fears about the Communist menace about to take over their lives. He claimed that there were hundreds of Communists who owed their allegiance to the old Soviet Union that were burrowed deep into the U.S. government, especially into our State Department. And that Democratic President Harry Truman and his administration were refusing to weed them out.
McCarthy’s speech electrified the small crowd of about 275 people who had ostensibly turned out to hear about how the U.S., and every citizens welfare, was essentially being sold down the river by treasonous Democratic politicians. (Sound familiar?) With a deep baritone voice and an infused sense of calamity, McCarthy had essentially elevated fear-mongering into an art form. McCarthy blamed “elite” Democrats in the Truman Administration who had failed to purge “the enemy within,” that threatened America’s security and way of life. “While I cannot take the time to name all of the men in the State Department who have been named as members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring, I have here in my hand a list of 205 that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who, nevertheless, who are still working and shaping U.S. policy,” he thundered. Of course, no such list of names actually existed and the entire speech was a total scam.
Naturally, this speech was long before the internet or cell phones came into existence, so news that over 200 Communist traitors were still effectively passing on top secret information to the Soviet Union became known slowly but surely, like a massive blob spreading it’s suffocating deadly existence over the entire country. Eventually, McCarthy’s accusation that there was a hidden Communist cabal at the heart of the U.S. government triggered a wave of country-wide paranoia and fear mongering that would forever bear his name-“McCarthyism.” Some saw through the phoniness of this blatant exercise in demagoguery, but tragically, there were too many true believers as McCarthy’s fame as one who was fighting the scourge of Communism rose to breath- taking heights. He was put in charge of a Senate oversight committee committed to rooting out Communist traitors in all walks of American life- from government, to Hollywood to industry and on and on. Hundreds of innocent Americans were falsely accused of treason and saw their lives being destroyed before their very eyes. Some committed suicide. Those that saw through these charades and were willing to say so publicly, were denounced by McCarthy as commies, commie-sympathizers or outright traitors. His rise to ultimate power seemed unstoppable.
And it probably would have been, if it hadn’t been for the advent of that new-fangled electronics contraption known as television that was increasingly winding up in everyones homes. When McCarthy charged that the U.S. Army, like the State Department, was riddled with Communist traitors, the Army, instead of wimping out, decided to challenge him head-on, in front of live, televised audiences. It was the first time television would be used in that manner. When the viewing public could visually watch, for the first time, the phoniness of McCarthy’s demagoguery, his popularity, and, hence, his power, began taking a swan dive. McCarthy, always a heavy drinker, increased his alcohol consumption even further as his power slowly oozed away. He eventually drank himself to death in 1958, while he was in his late forties.
But here’s the real interesting part. When McCarthy headed up his Senate committee, his chief of staff who usually did all the witness questioning, was a fellow named Roy Cohen. By all accounts Cohen was every bit as despicable a human being as McCarthy was. But somewhere along the way, sometime in the 1970s, Roy Cohen hooked up with a young Donald Trump who was just making a name for himself by managing the real estate empire he had inherited from his father. It was Roy Cohen who infused a-new-to-the-game-of-politcs Donald Trump with the McCarthy brand of right-wing demagoguery that’s on display with this current administration. As it turned out, Roy Cohen was homosexual at a time when it was still deeply shocking for any celebrity to be outed as being gay. Cohen would eventually die of AIDS in the mid-1980s, still proclaiming he was not homosexual.
So now we have the ghosts of Joe McCarthy and Roy Cohen on full display in the Trump administration. Trump first rose to political power in 2016 when he began demonizing both Mexicans and Moslems. He would build a wall so Mexico could no longer send us “their rapists and murderers.” He would ban Moslem countries from sending us their terrorists. He would go on to appoint white supremacists as among his closest aides. His calculation during the election was that there was still enough white xenophobic voters to overcome strong opposition from minority voters, and he was right by an eyelash. Anyone, especially in the media, that tries to expose Trump for his demagogic phoniness is subject to a withering Trump Twitter tantrum and cries of fake news. Sort of like the way Joe McCarthy called his opponents commie sympathizers. The base of diehard Trump supporters still continues to hold firm, even amid all the chaos and outright lies that emanate from this White House on a daily basis.
In the1950s, television exposed Joe McCarthy for the phony demagogue that he was, and for the poisonous effects his antics were having on the U.S. citizenry and their values. However, it doesn’t seem to be working these days as far as exposing Donald Trump for the fraudster he really is. Maybe people were less gullible and a lot smarter back then.