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."