The Lessons of McCarthyism

Arthur Herman, author of a book on Senator Joseph McCarthy, has an interesting column in today’s New York Post that contrasts the Republican and Democratic responses to McCarthy’s downfall, in the context of the Alito confirmation hearings:

McCarthy’s fall sank the anti-Communist crusade he had championed, and crippled the Republican Party’s right wing, which had made anti-Communism its lodestone, for a generation. Those dramatic minutes on TV began a political landslide that buried McCarthy’s friend Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election 10 years later.
Republicans, and the conservative movement, learned a powerful lesson. They would now pay a high price for their rhetorical excess or hysteria, which the media would instantly denounce as “McCarthyism.” ***
The right began policing its own. Conservatives who didn’t or couldn’t make the adjustment were relegated to the swamps of the John Birch Society

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