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This was the key syllogism of the McCarthy myth. In 1951, the Fair Dealing New York Post, in a series on McCarthy, said: "Joe McCarthy hasn't caught any spies. But he can claim credit for the political death of at least one man . . . It is clear that McCarthy defeated Tydings." This line came to be accepted far outside the originating circle of McCarthy's Fair Deal enemies. Later, liberal commentators expanded this to say that McCarthy eliminated six other Senators who opposed him. A man who can defeat seven U.S. Senators is a power, and thus McCarthy's aura of invincibility began. By the end of 1951, the myth of McCarthy's power had reached the point where even journalists with no ax to grind had to cover McCarthy closely and seriously.
Now signs appear that even some liberals look askance at the myth they helped to create. A recent issue of the Nation warns: "It is a mistake . . . to keep the spotlight focused on McCarthy; this is what he wants his opposition to do." In the New York Post, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., co-chairman of Americans for Democratic Action, tried to deflate the myth at the point of origin. Wrote Schlesinger: "The record shows . . . that the notion of McCarthy's invincibility is largely legendary. He certainly cannot be credited with the defeat of seven Senators . . . McCarthy conducted a vigorous campaign against Tydings in 1950. But the strong probability is that Tydings would have been beaten anyway . . . The Connecticut case is even clearer. In 1950, McCarthy campaigned against [William] Benton, and Benton won in what was a generally tough year for the Democrats. In 1952, McCarthy made Benton almost his chief campaign target, [and] Benton ran a considerable margin ahead of Stevenson."
The Deadly Parallel. So a start has been made toward cutting the McCarthy myth down to size. Before that job is finished, it will need more than rueful second-thoughts of liberals. President Eisenhower will have to deal again and again with McCarthyism, which is a major liability to Eisenhower's foreign policy, his domestic policy and his party. Only an exaggerated fear of McCarthy's power could account for such disgraceful episodes as the delay in the appointments of Mildred McAfee Horton and David Shillinglaw on the ground that they had belonged to organizations that McCarthy may consider subversive. Eisenhower will have to eliminate that kind of paralyzing fear from his Administration.
McCarthyism has a parallel in modern history, and it is neither Hitlerism nor Huey Longism. In the late '20s and early '30s, Prohibition monopolized public discussion in the U.S. and luridly colored the European view of American life. An overwhelming majority of the U.S. people came to recognize that Prohibition was a mistakebut before Repeal in 1933, the opponents of Prohibition had exaggerated its evil effects as widely as the most fanatic Drys had exaggerated the evils of drink.