Saturday, October 26, 2013

THE GOOD OLD GOP? JOSEPH R. McCARTHY?

FROM SALON


The fallacy of the Republican “moderate”: Stop being nostalgic for the right

A raft of news coverage points back to the good old days, when Republicans were reasonable. The history is way off

The fallacy of the Republican Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Michele Bachmann (Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/AP/J. Scott Applewhite/Reuters/Mary Calvert)
In the New York Times this week, John G. Taft, who is the grandson of Robert Taft, makes his contribution to the growing “Oh, conservatives used to be so moderate, now they’re just radicals and crazies” literature.
Having written about and against this thesis of conservatism’s Golden Age so many times, I don’t think it’s useful for me to rehearse my critique here. Instead, I’ll focus on one important tidbit of Taft’s argument, in the hope that a little micro-history about his grandfather might serve to correct our macro-history of conservatism.
Here’s what Taft says:
This recent display of bomb-throwing obstructionism by Republicans in Congress evokes another painful, historically embarrassing chapter in the Republican Party — that of Senator Joseph McCarthy, chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, whose anti-Communist crusade was allowed by Republican elders to expand unchecked, unnecessarily and unfairly tarnishing the reputations of thousands of people with “Red Scare” accusations of Communist affiliation. Finally Senator McCarthy was brought up short during the questioning of the United States Army’s chief counsel, Joseph N. Welch, who at one point demanded the senator’s attention, then said: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.” He later added: “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
There is more than a passing similarity between Joseph McCarthy and Ted Cruz, between McCarthyism and the Tea Party movement. The Republican Party survived McCarthyism because, ultimately, its excesses caused it to burn out. And eventually party elders in the mold of my grandfather were able to realign the party with its brand promise: The Republican Party is (or should be) the Stewardship Party.
According to Taft, McCarthy’s “anti-Communist crusade was allowed by Republican elders to expand unchecked” and it was ultimately forces like his grandfather who put that crusade in check.
Let’s turn to the Wayback Machine, shall we?