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Archive for October 2nd, 2018|Daily archive page

DIFFERENT ENEMIES, SAME GOAL: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 2, 2018 at 12:27 am

A CNN headline says it all: “Obama asked question everyone’s been wondering about GOP”

“What happened to the Republican Party?”

That’s the question former President Barack Obama asked at the University of Illinois on September 7.  And he quickly answered it:

“Its central organizing principle in foreign policy was the fight against communism, and now they’re cozying up to the former head of the KGB. Actively blocking legislation that would defend our elections from Russian attack. What happened?” 

Related image

Barack Obama as President

On the surface, it seems the Republican Party has drastically changed. But, in reality, there has been no substantial change at all.

Let’s start at the beginning—in this case, 1932.

Democratic nominee Franklin D. Roosevelt wins election against Republican President Herbert Hoover. So popular is he that he wins an unprecedented four terms—12 years!—in the White House, seeing America through the Great Depression and World War II,

In 1945, Roosevelt suddenly dies in office, leaving Vice President Harry S. Truman in command. He lacks the imperial magnetism and eloquence of FDR, so Republicans assume that 1948 will be a cakewalk for them.

But it isn’t. Instead, Truman wins a second term—and rubs it in by holding up the now-defunct headline, “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN” for reporters to photograph.

By 1952, Republicans have been locked out of the White House for 20 years. They’re desperate to return—and angry enough to do anything to win.  

They find attacking the integrity of their fellow Americans a highly effective tactic.

During the 1950s, Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy rides a wave of paranoia to national prominence—by attacking the patriotism of anyone who disagrees with him.

Elected to the Senate in 1946, he rises to national prominence on February 9, 1950, after giving a fiery speech in Wheeling, West Virginia:

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

Senator Joseph R. McCarthy

Americans are already growing increasingly fearful of Communism:

  • Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin has not withdrawn the Red Army from the countries it has occupied in Eastern Europe during World War II.
  • In 1948, the Soviet Union develops—and demonstrates—its own atomic bomb, an achievement U.S. scientists had claimed would not happen for at least a decade.
  • In 1949, China falls to the triumphant armies of Mao Tse Tung.  Generalissimo Chaing Kai Shek is driven from mainland China to the tiny island of Taiwan.

Anti-communism as a lever to political advancement sharply accelerates following McCarthy’s speech. 

Any American can be accused of being a Communist or a Communist sympathizer—”a Comsymp” or “fellow traveler” in the style of the era.

Among those accused:

  • Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who had overseen America’s strategy for defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan
  • President Harry S. Truman
  • Playwrights Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller
  • Actors Charlie Chaplin, Zero Mostel, Lloyd Bridges, Howard Da Silva, Edward G. Robinson and John Garfield
  • Composers Arron Copland and Elmer Bernstein
  • Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who presided over the creation of America’s atomic bomb
  • Actresses Lee Grant, Delores del Rio, Ruth Gordon and Lucille Ball
  • Journalists Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer, who had chronicled the rise of Nazi Germany
  • Folksinger Pete Seeger
  • Writers Irwin Shaw, Howard Fast, John Steinbeck and Dashiell Hammett

Even “untouchable” Republicans become targets for such slander.

The most prominent of these is President Dwight D. Eisenhower—labeled ”a conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy” by Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society in 1958.

In 1953, McCarthy attacks the leadership of the United States Army as “a hotbed of traitors” and convenes an inquiry through the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

But the hearings backfire, exposing McCarthy as a bullying demagogue. A Senate committee condemns his behavior as acting “contrary to senatorial ethics and tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.”

Yet even without McCarthy, Republicans ride the issue of anti-Communism to victory from 1948 to 1992. “Respectable” anti-Communists—like Richard M. Nixon—depict themselves as the only ones who can be trusted to safeguard America.

Republicans hold the White House for eight years under Dwight D. Eisenhower, then lose it in 1960 to John F. Kennedy and again in 1964 to Lyndon B. Johnson.

By 1968, with the nation mired in Vietnam and convulsed by antiwar demonstrations and race riots, Americans turn once more to those who prey upon their fears and hates.

They elect Richard Nixon, who promises to end the Vietnam war and attack “uppity” blacks and antiwar demonstrators—and, above all, “the Communist menace.”

The same strategy re-elects him in 1972.

Jimmy Carter wins the Presidency in 1976 and loses it in 1980 to Ronald Reagan. Republicans hold the White House until 1992.

Reagan doesn’t want to continue the “stalemate” of “containing” Communism. He intends to roll it back. Tensions rise between the United States and the Soviet Union—the highest since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

American proxies fight Soviet proxies in Afghanistan and Central America, but the world escapes nuclear holocaust.

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