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December 01, 2008 01:21 AM UTC

The GOP's McCarthy gene

  • by: DavidThi808

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

from the L.A. Times

…the real father of modern Republicanism is Sen. Joe McCarthy, and the line doesn’t run from Goldwater to Reagan to George W. Bush; it runs from McCarthy to Nixon to Bush and possibly now to Sarah Palin.

Gabler brings up a very compelling argument. And if he’s right, then the Republican party is, at it’s roots, anti-American. Because America has always been about opportunity and success, not resentment & failure.

As historian Richard Hofstadter described it in his famous essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” McCarthyism is a way to build support by playing on the anxieties of Americans, actively convincing them of danger and conspiracy even where these don’t exist.

If so, this is where the party is headed.

Republicans continue to push the idea that this is a center-right country and that Americans have swooned for GOP anti-government posturing all these years, but the real electoral bait has been anger, recrimination and scapegoating. That’s why John McCain kept describing Barack Obama as some sort of alien and why Palin, taking a page right out of the McCarthy playbook, kept pushing Obama’s relationship with onetime radical William Ayers.

And that is also why the Republican Party, despite the recent failure of McCarthyism, is likely to keep moving rightward, appeasing its more extreme elements and stoking their grievances for some time to come. There may be assorted intellectuals and ideologues in the party, maybe even a few centrists, but there is no longer an intellectual or even ideological wing. The party belongs to McCarthy and his heirs — Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Palin. It’s in the genes.

And in that case no matter how much people like LB and NEWSMAN try, they no longer are the future of the Republican party.


20 thoughts on “The GOP’s McCarthy gene

  1. America has always been about opportunity and success, not resentment & failure.

    Absolutely, America is about opportunity.  But I question your pairing of “opportunity” with “success.”

    I think a better match would be “opportunity” with “failure” and the freedom to try again.  Doesn’t that capture our essence more accurately ?

    Of course, someone who gets the brass ring on their first try may see it differently, I suppose.


    1. Its all about second chances.  Bankruptcy rehabilitation, clemency, parole.

      America has become a place it is very hard to recover from past mistakes.

  2. Because McCarthy’s hearings were just so devastating. Especially to the people who were blacklisted when people “named names”.

    But your point is well taken that the far-right often stoops to the “they’re not one of us” routine when they can’t win on the issues.

    1. the quasi-legal legitimacy and it IS being rejected by growing portions of the public who, in the past, could be counted on to respond to attacks on candidates’ “Americanism” like Pavlov’s dogs.  

      It’s good news for Dems because as long as the GOP refuses to believe that the old divide and conquer through fear and hate isn’t working on enough of us anymore, the shrinkage of the base and loss of indies and moderates will continue.  Although Reagan used this tactic, too. Remember his mythical welfare queens? They were to blame for all of our fiscal problems.   It wasn’t all “morning in America”.  

      1. It’s what wins campaigns, in the end. Whether it’s the rhetoric of fear or “hope and change,” an unfortunately large percentage of the electorate bases their opinions it. Always have, always will.  

        1. The content of the rhetoric isn’t exactly irrelevant. And labeling it all “rhetoric” is kind of (not exactly) like saying it’s all words.  

          Words, even “rhetoric”, convey meaning.  What the GOP has meant to say for decades is vote for us because the other guys are  dangerous, cowardly, soft, unpatriotic and immoral.  

          If Obama’s “rhetoric” says vote for me because I think we need to respect each other as well meaning patriotic Americans  even when we don’t agree with each other so we can work together to solve problems, then I think what he means to convey represents a healthier and more promising means of proceeding whether he can succeed entirely or not. And that matters.

            1. and it’s not lying if you believe it to be true, misguided though it may be. Just like it’s not lying if you believe you can accomplish what you say, even if it’s a long shot.

              The point I was making was less about the content of the rhetoric, which I would agree is highly relevant, than the short attention span of the public that requires such hyper-synopsizing in the first place. There’s going to be a lot of playing to peoples fear, from both sides, as long as the electorate continues to base their choices on brief sound bites or 15-second commercials.

              1. 24-hour news cycle and instant communication have completely destroyed our attention spans.

                I don’t know how many 15 second ads there were this year. The Club for Growth wanted to air some 15 second ads against Democratic Congressional candidates, but thankfully the FEC didn’t allow them to waive the requirement to verbally and visually tell voters who was responsible for the advertising they were watching (kind of hard to squeeze theclubforgrowthpoliticalactioncommitte isresponsibleforthecontentofthisadvertising into a 15 second long ad.)

                And the over-synopsis is tiresome too. One of my biggest complaints about Obama was his inconsistency regarding specific policy.

  3. My dear husband is a left-wing yellow-dog Democrat. He has said that he believes W was behind 9/11 because he needed an excuse to go to war in the middle east. He believes the CIA shot JFK. He believes in a government conspiracy to keep us all down and lift the rich up higher.

    I worked in state government long enough to learn that there is no such thing as a successful government conspiracy. The conspirators aren’t competent enough to pull it off, and if they do, there are a myriad whistleblowers ready to rat them out. I try to tell my dear husband that, and he agrees, but still believes that the government is out to get the little guy.

    1. especially that supposedly hang together over long periods of time. To believe the Bush 9/11 conspiracy, for instance, I’d first have to believe that the most incompetent administration in history was supernaturally competent in this single area.  Talk about hard to believe.  

      1. “Pass the bailout today or we’ll have the next Great Depression tomorrow!” I wonder how the stock market would have responded if they had said, “It looks like we have some problems in the financial markets and this $700 billion assistance package should smooth things over so we don’t suffer any more disruptions” instead.

        Since the economy is basically a big head game, the “Sky IS Falling!” approach sent the stock market plummeting. A more measured request might have kept my 401k balance up a little higher.

      2. So they were competent in the PR portion of getting their way at the outset.  After that they pretty much screwed up anything and everything that could possibly BE screwed up.  These people couldn’t organize a successful school picnic much less a massive, ongoing, air tight conspiracy.

  4. .

    on abc news tonight the incumbent president revealed to Charlie Gibson that the financial meltdown was due to bad decisions made on Wall Street 10 or so years before he was elected.  

    George W. Bush is off the hook.  Didn’t happen because of any actions taken or not taken on his watch.  

    Sounds like he also exonerated Bill Clinton.  

    All the blame was seemingly laid at the feet of Clinton’s predecessor.  I will look up who that was and post their name later.  

    The buck stops not here.


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