The Long Shadow Of Senator Joe McCarthy | WAMC

The Long Shadow Of Senator Joe McCarthy

Jul 9, 2020

In the long history of American demagogues, from Huey Long to Donald Trump, never has one man caused so much damage in such a short time as Senator Joseph McCarthy.

We still use “McCarthyism” to stand for outrageous charges of guilt by association, a weapon of polarizing slander. From 1950 to 1954, McCarthy destroyed many careers and even entire lives, whipping the nation into a frenzy of paranoia, accusation, loyalty oaths, and terror. When the public finally turned on him, he came crashing down, dying of alcoholism in 1957.

Larry Tye’s new biography, "Demagogue," is a portrait of a human being capable of immense evil, yet beguiling charm. McCarthy was a tireless worker and a genuine war hero. When he made it to the Senate, he flailed around in search of an agenda. Finally, after three years, he hit upon anti-communism.

Larry Tye is the best-selling author of "Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon" and "Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend," as well as "Superman: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero," "The Father of Spin: Edward L. Bernays and the Birth of Public Relations," "Home Lands: Portraits of the New Jewish Diaspora," and "Rising from the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class."