It was Father-and-Son Left-Wing Paranoia Day in the New York Times Sunday Review, as James Risen and Tom Risen penned “Donald Trump Does His Best Joe McCarthy.” James is an grizzled investigative reporter for the paper who has had his shares of legal scrapes with the Obama Justice Department for refusing to reveal his sources for his 2006 book State of War. His son Tom is a reporter for an aerospace magazine.
Under the assuredly ominous date-line of Wheeling, West Virginia, the Risens ranted:
On Feb. 9, 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy disembarked from his Capital Airlines plane at Stifel Field here, where he planned to speak at a Lincoln Day event hosted by the Ohio County Women’s Republican Club.
At the McLure Hotel downtown that night, Joe McCarthy, a 41-year-old junior Republican senator from Wisconsin, gave one of the most infamous speeches in American history, mixing right-wing demagogy and outright lies as he claimed that there were hundreds of Communists burrowed deep in the State Department and accused President Harry Truman’s Democratic administration of refusing to weed them out.
It’s a bit rich to call Trump a McCarthyite, given that the only weapon in his opponents’ bag these days seems to be making unsubstantiated and increasingly dubious links between his successful presidential campaign and the Russians.
But within days, Mr. McCarthy’s accusation that there was a hidden Communist cabal at the heart of the American government blew up into a bitter national controversy. And before long, Joe McCarthy’s Wheeling speech had triggered a wave of paranoia and fear mongering that would forever bear his name: McCarthyism.
Wait for it….
On June 28, 2016, another Republican politician landed at Stifel, now named Wheeling Ohio County Airport, to campaign here: Donald Trump.
There, the Republican nominee for president spoke to a crowd of roughly 4,000. “There’s something going on that’s really, really bad,” he said. “And we better get smart, and we better get tough, or we’re not going to have much of a country left, O.K.?”
It was a dark speech that harkened back to the most fearful tones of Joe McCarthy. Drumming up fears about the Islamic State, which he said was “spreading like wildfire,” Mr. Trump said that if he was elected, he would bring back the use of torture techniques like waterboarding in the interrogations of terrorism suspects…..
One year after he walked in Joe McCarthy’s footsteps in Wheeling, Mr. Trump now practices Mr. McCarthy’s version of the politics of fear from the White House. The two figures, who bear striking similarities -- and who shared an adviser, Roy Cohn -- both mastered the art of fear politics.
Not hiding their animus, the Risens tapped into the smug ideas idea that Trump voters are uneducated ignorami:
He keeps doing it because it works for him, just like it worked for Joe McCarthy. Mr. Trump knows what people want to hear — how terrifying the world can be and how he can protect them. Fearmongering resonates with his political base, particularly white voters without college degrees.
And racist too:
Underlying it all is a broad and unspoken fear of the looming loss of white dominance in American society. Increased diversity, notably the rapidly growing Hispanic population in the United States, is leading to a broader fear of all minority groups and foreigners, analysts believe.
The Risens ate up the whole credential gap among Trump voters:
“Clearly there is an audience for speeches that rally nationalist causes and against amorphous perceived threats,” [Professor Scott] Crichlow said. “What I think may be driving some of the appeal of the politics of fear is the state’s low education and demographics.”
They got a condescending soundbite from Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott:
“When you have 40 years of economic stagnation, that leads to frustration with the status quo and to zero-sum thinking,” the mayor said. “And I also think part of his appeal was that he said, I’m going to protect you from the Muslims, or Hispanics. There is a fear of that.”
The Risens really stretched to link Trump to Joe McCarthy: He was from the 1950s, which is the same era Trump supporters (at least the ones in our heads) want to go back to!
Trump supporters want to make America great again, to go back to what they believe were the halcyon days of the 1950s, which, ironically, was the decade of the fearmongering of Joe McCarthy.