CNN political analyst Ron Brownstein penned an analysis that compared today's Republican Party to those from Sen. Joseph McCarthy's (R-WI) "red scare" during the early days of the Cold War.
"In McCarthy's era, most of the GOP's leaders found excuses to avoid challenging conspiracy theories that they knew to be implausible, even as evidence of their costs to the nation steadily mounted," wrote Brownstein.
With Republicans today throwing around "communist" and "socialist" as pejoratives for Democrats, it can be difficult to see where McCarthyism began and ended. His attacks began in the early 1950s when Congress created the House Un-American Activities Committee to investigate the private lives of Americans in the military and government. For McCarthy that quickly spread to a crusade against Hollywood, musicians and the literary world. He destroyed careers with a mere subpoena demanding people name names of other communists they know.
The most famous of which was an attack on American Sweetheart Lucille Ball, whose hit show "I Love Lucy" was the most-watched show in the United States for four out of six seasons, said the Hollywood Reporter. His badgering of witnesses led to his downfall when Americans watched the hearings aired live on television. He was ultimately censured by the Senate in 1954.
History.com describes McCarthy as a Republican who "bullied, lied, and smeared his way to power, destroying many careers and lives in the process."
The chief enabler of the time was Senate Republican leader Robert A. Taft, who Brownstein compared to today's Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
"In many respects, the congressional GOP response to Trump has paralleled the party's response to McCarthy," wrote Brownstein. "Whatever their private concerns about Trump's behavior or values, the vast majority of congressional Republicans have supported Trump since his 2017 inauguration at almost every turn, brushing aside concerns about everything from openly racist language to his efforts to extort the government of Ukraine to manufacture dirt on the eventual Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden."
He cited conservative Bill Kristol characterizing it as "the dog that hasn't barked. This is as if we've had the Army-McCarthy hearings and everyone is just quiet. No one is rethinking anything."
Even with Americans voting Trump out of office, his influence is expected to continue through President-elect Joe Biden's term. Some Republicans are already starting to rewrite the last four years. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) blamed Democrats for GOP dysfunction during Trump's term, despite Republicans like Hawley ruling the Senate for the entirety of Trump's four years in office.
Love to deprive an incumbent president of a working government by helping him enact $2 trillion in election year st… https://t.co/yIhUcujOui— Eric Levitz (@Eric Levitz)1606827792.0
But while Hawley is serving as a loyal Trump soldier, the president is now at work bringing down other Republicans. Georgia Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue already called for the resignation of their state's Republican secretary of state. That has now grown into a movement to blame Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA), who is now under attack.
"The governor has done nothing," Trump said in his Fox interview with Maria Bartiromo. "I'm ashamed that I endorsed him.
MSNBC's Rachel Maddow noted Monday evening that Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey was certifying the election in his state for Biden when either Trump or Vice President Mike Pence began calling him.
Monday afternoon Trump retweeted a comment saying that Ducey “has betrayed the people of Arizona.” He added his own commentary, “TRUE!”
TRUE! https://t.co/GaldE1fto5— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1606779610.0
Brownstein compared today's Republicans to "following McCarthy into deeper and deeper waters of conspiracy theories."
As with Trump, McCarthy didn't create the "Red Scare," Brownstein explained, he merely magnified it. Trump has employed a similar tactic, amplifying divisions in the United States. Ironically, however, Trump has done so with the help of Russia. Intelligence last year showed Russia-connected teams "discussed ambitious plans to stoke unrest and even violence inside the U.S. as recently as 2018," said NBC News. Republicans followed Trump down the path, just as they did McCarthy.