bureaucracybusters

REPUBLICANS: “I’D RATHER BE RUSSIAN–AND STAY ELECTED”–PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 4, 2019 at 12:15 am

There was a time when Republicans saw—and portrayed—themselves as America’s foremost defenders against Communism. 

This was particularly true during the early 1950s. Case in point: Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. 

Elected to the Senate in 1946, he rose 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.”

Joseph McCarthy

Americans were already growing increasingly fearful of Communism:

  • Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had not withdrawn the Red Army from the countries it had occupied in Eastern Europe during World War II.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

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

No American—no matter how prominent—was safe from the accusation of being a Communist or a Communist sympathizer—”a Comsymp” or “fellow traveler” in the language 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.
  • Folksinger Pete Seeger.
  • 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, thus forcing Japan to surrender.
  • 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.
  • Writers Irwin Shaw, Howard Fast, John Steinbeck and Dashiell Hammett

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Even prominent Republicans became targets for slanderous attacks on their patriotism. The most prominent of these: President Dwight D. Eisenhower—was labeled ”a conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy” by Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society in 1958.

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

But the hearings exposed McCarthy as a bullying demagogue. A Senate committee condemned his behavior for “bring[ing] the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.” Shunned in disgrace by his onetime colleagues, McCarthy drowned his sorrows in alcohol, dying in 1957.

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

Republicans held the White House for eight years under Dwight D. Eisenhower, then lost 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 elected Richard Nixon, who preyed upon their fears and hates of blacks and “the Communist menace.”

The same strategy re-elected him in 1972.

Jimmy Carter won the Presidency in 1976 and lost it in 1980 to Ronald Reagan. And Republicans held the White House until 1992.  

Upon taking office as President in 1981, Ronald Reagan decided to end the “stalemate” of “containing” Communism. He intended to “roll it back.”

American proxies fought Soviet proxies in Afghanistan and Central America, but the world escaped nuclear holocaust.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Republicans continued to accuse Democrats of being devious agents—or at least unwitting pawns—of “the Communist conspiracy.”

In 1992, President George H.W. Bush and the Republican establishment charged that Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton might be a KGB plant.

George H.W. Bush

Their “evidence”: During his tenure at Oxford University in 1969-70, Clinton had briefly visited Moscow. 

After the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, Republicans found that accusing Democrats of being “Commies” didn’t carry the same weight.

So they turned to “domestic enemies” to rail—and run—against: Liberals, blacks, Hispanics, “uppity” women, war protesters, lesbians, gays, and—after 9/11—Muslims.

From 1945 to 2015, it was unthinkable for a Republican Presidential candidate to pay tribute to a Soviet dictator.

But that utterly changed when Donald J. Trump, a “reality TV” host with longstanding financial ties to Russian oligarchs, ran for President of the United States.

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Donald Trump

Trump lavishly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin—and even invited him to directly interfere in the 2016 Presidential race.

The reason for the Trump-Putin bromance: Each had something to offer the other.

Putin wanted the United States to ditch the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance, which had preserved Western Europe from Russian aggression since World War II. And Trump had often attacked America’s funding of NATO as a drain on the American economy.

And Trump wanted to be President. For this, Putin could supply monies, Internet trolls to confuse voters with falsified news—and even the hacking of key voting centers.

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