McCarthyism. It's a word that conjures up fearmongering, ruined careers and lives, and the suppression of free speech. It suggests lies, tied to ambition, and a ruthless, scorched earth partisanship. There are a lot of political charges flying around these days -- fascism, communism, socialism, elitism, even Nazism -- but few are willing to use the word "McCarthyism." For some reason, Democrats shy away from calling a spade a spade; running in terror from the words "liar" or "criminal" when applied to the Bush administration, for example. We mustn't say impolite things about people who have no hesitation to be impolite toward us. That would be unseemly.
Not even Joe McCarthy himself faced people so unwilling to fight -- at least, not for the same reason, anyway. Where McCarthy's critics faced national censure, along with the destruction of their careers and reputations, today's victims of McCarthyism are motivated to timidity simply from the fear of seeming rude. One doesn't bring attention to the frothing lunatic shrieking about commies taking over and peeing in the punchbowl, one simply makes a mental note not to drink any of the punch. Wouldn't want ruin the party for everyone.
But not everyone is willing to look the other way. In a new report -- "Rise of the New McCarthyism: How Right Wing Extremists Try to Paralyze Government Through Ideological Smears and Baseless Attacks" -- People For the American Way (PFAW) drops the "M-bomb" on the right.
It's rampant. It's on television and radio and it's in the halls of congress. If the right stands for anything these days, it's McCarthyism; baseless, partisan smears attacking people's patriotism and loyalty to their own country. Accusations of de facto treason are everywhere.
Today’s McCarthyism has many faces and voices, including the household names of right-wing cable television, a plethora of radio hosts, Religious Right leaders, right-wing organizations and the bogus “grassroots” campaigns they generate – and Members of Congress and other Republican Party officials. Together they engage in character assassination and challenge the loyalty and patriotism of their targets.
Fox's’s Glenn Beck, who reaches millions of Americans with his televised tirades, has become an almost cartoonish McCarthy clone, with his guilt-by-association charts supposedly detailing the communist connections of White House officials.
In the McCain/Palin campaign, there were charges of elitism and "palling around with terrorists." Talking heads on FOX News seriously discuss whether the president is a Stalinist or just a classic Marxist. As I've pointed out before, the inmates are running the Republican asylum these days. But it's a social faux pas to point out that crazy people are acting like crazy people. It just isn't done.
Luckily, this whole McCarthyism thing doesn't seem to work very well without some sort of Un-American Activities Committee and, as much as Rep. Michelle Bachmann would like to see one, they don't have it.
Without the mantle of legitimacy and authority, McCarthyism finds other outlets. And those outlets aren't exactly constructive. Cue the circular firing squad:
Glenn Beck, who has waged a conspiratorial, hateful campaign against liberals and his other political enemies all year, has been galvanizing his supporters to run for office. Today, conservative activist Eric Forcade announced that he is running in the Republican primary to unseat longtime Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-FL). In explaing his reason for running, Forcade said he was inspired by the “values that have been popularized by Glenn Beck.”
Beck’s 9/12 project and its closely related “tea parties” have inspired a number of other challengers to Republican lawmakers deemed insufficiently “pure”...
Among the targets; Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC), Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), and Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL). Especially ironic is this wingnut targeted race:
Even NRCC [National Republican Congressional Committee] Chairman Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), charged with recruiting Republicans to challenge House Democrats in 2010, is facing a contested primary. Conservative activist David Smith says he will rely on the tea party movement to bring down Sessions.
Without any way to actually gain much from their fear- and hatemongering, the McCarthyites fall on each other like hungry wolves, to use an overused phrase. The "big Republican year" theory about the 2010 elections is looking less and less credible.
But heaven help us if these people come into power.
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