Former President Donald Trump has some things in common with a couple of McCarthy lads who took up politics. No, I don’t mean current House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. Aside from party registration, they seem very different.
I mean former Democrat Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota and former Republican Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin. First, let’s talk about Gene, who gained national prominence in the 1960s.
Gene McCarthy was perhaps the first Senator from the New Left, the first who mobilized then scruffy, anti-American, and Communist supporting young Democrats into a political unit. No, he wasn’t like Trump that way. But McCarthy was an insurgent politician. McCarthy challenged the Democrat establishment of his day as Trump challenged the Republican Bush establishment in 2016. Though Trump won in 2016 and McCarthy lost in 1968, they both gained enormous influence in their respective parties.
Many of the older of the hard Left Democrats of today were “Clean for Gene” in 1968. Their anti-Vietnam War campaign actively aided a Communist country that was fighting American troops in the field. But the McCarthyites didn’t care. Since they were in the streets, not in rice paddies, because of college deferments they had the liberty to call American soldiers “baby killers”. They and their heirs control the Democrat Party.
Trump’s current followers today control the Republican Party and will have a large impact on the party and thus on America for some time to come. Many Republican politicians who achieve power for decades hence will have gotten their start as Trump followers today. Like the hard Left, mindless populism will have a very long shelf life. It was insurgent to influence for both Trump and Gene McCarthy. Though it should be remembered, McCarthy ran again after his most influential race in 1968. He got nowhere and was generally embarrassed by his showing.
If Trump is reminiscent of Gene McCarthy in the political sense, then he recalls Joe McCarthy in the personal sense. Granted, McCarthy had an alcohol problem and Trump doesn’t drink booze. Actually, that’s a tad more concerning, as Joe McCarthy’s wilder statements could sometimes by attributed to his obvious inebriation. Not so for Trump.
Both tended and tend to fly off the handle at imaginary enemies. Now, there was an active Communist internal threat to this nation during McCarthy’s era. Tailgunner Joe, a nickname he picked up from his WWII service, was right about that just as Trump is right about much of what he says. The problem for both is that they said and say it so badly.
Exaggerations, half lies, bombast, ridiculous charges, rampant paranoia, refusal to accept reality are hallmarks of both men. America eventually turned on Joe McCarthy and the poor man drank himself to death. That will not happen to Donald Trump. America may deny him another term. However, sadly, his influence will linger and corrode for awhile. In that way, he has much more in common with Gene than with Joe.
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