Ted Cruz and Joe McCarthy

by Bob Schwartz

Ted Cruz - Joe McCarthy
For a while now, virulent anti-Obamaism has looked a lot like the anti-Communist vendetta of McCarthyism in the 1950s. Barack Obama is in fact the scary culmination of the fear that swept the nation fifty years ago. Not only are there Communist infiltrators in government offices; the White House itself is in the hands of a godless liberty-taker—or so it seems to millions.

U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy from Wisconsin did not invent this brand of hate and paranoia. He just perfected it through a combination of extreme showboating, angry rhetoric and, most of all, fear. Nothing could be worse than to be branded an enemy of the state (in McCarthyist terms), which might lead to a loss of a citizen’s reputation, job and career or, more to the point, to a politician’s losing office.

This week, Ted Cruz’s attempt to hog the American stage with his fauxbuster (media are still working on a term for a filibuster that isn’t one) has had a notable effect on some of his Republican Congressional colleagues. Since the 2010 elections, and certainly in the 2012 presidential campaign, there has been a reluctance to publicly break ranks and call an ambitious, self-absorbed blowhard that (e.g., Donald Trump) or a fool a fool (take your pick). In recent days, a few Republican Senators have stopped holding back, realizing that as much as they agree in their opposition to Obama policies, this is not a constructive way to proceed, governmentally or politically. Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, a loyal Republican and unassailable conservative, said that it appears that to Cruz and others of that ilk, he is just not conservative enough.

This is the Ted Cruz/Joe McCarthy strategy: if you are not with me, you are against America. To torture a quote from King Louis XIV, “America c’est moi.” (I am America). And if you are not for my definition of America, you are an enemy of the state—even if you purport to be a Republican, even if you are a Senator with many more years than my nine months in the Senate. And if you are an enemy of the state, I and my millions of like-minded Americans will destroy you. That is my mission.

Joe McCarthy’s brief demagogic career ended in ignominy (and ill health from his alcoholism). He went from holding center stage to banishment when more and more of his colleagues and the media stood up to his bullying. It wasn’t that anti-Communism went away; it remained a force for years to come and, as pointed out, lives still even in the post-Cold War era. It was that serious people put up with over-ambitious clowns as long as a common agenda is advanced, but at some point even the threat of losing office takes second place to what’s good for America.

In the end, McCarthyism lost to Americanism. Let’s hope that Cruzism suffers the same fate.