In the years following World War II, the United States entered into a Second Red Scare, that is, a second era where fears of communist infiltration of America became widespread.
According to the textbook authors, “legitimate suspicious and real fears, along with political opportunism, combined to fuel the nation into a communist scare that came to be known as McCarthyism.
One of the chief political opportunists was Senator Joseph McCarthy, who used fears of communist infiltration of the government to attack President Harry Truman and his administration[i].
The author of this crucial source document is Joseph McCarthy, who was participant and member of the United States Senate from Wisconsin. As a senator, McCarthy would have been a white, middle-to upper-class male. Senator McCarthy’s time in office coincided with the
Red Scare and he “had an extraordinary talent for whipping up anticommunist hysteria.”
This source, a speech delivered in Wheeling, West Virginia on February 9, 1950, launched his anti-communist crusade.
His purpose in giving the speech was to incite anti-communist feelings among the American people thought McCarthy gave the speech to an immediate audience in West Virginia, the publicity that it garnered gave him a national audience.
In the speech, the Senator McCarthy claimed the fight against communism was a part of the against atheism, indirectly associating America and capitalism with Christianity.
Indeed, he believed that Christianity was losing to atheism
The main thrust of McCarthy’s speech dealt with espionage. He declared that America found herself in a tenuous position “because of the traitorous actions of those who have been treated so well by this Nation,” specifically the well-educated affluent people who worked in the State Department.5McCarthy alleged to have “57 cases of individuals who would appear to be either card carrying members or certainly loyal to the Communist Party.
McCarthy’s background as an American and as a Christian influenced his strong anti-communist bias. Since his activities coincided with the larger anti-communist Red Scare, making accusations that the State Department harbored Soviet spies certainly helped launch his political career and led him to become chair of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. It is important to note that the number of communist names that he claimed to possess fluctuated, in some cases suggesting there were 205 spies. He never showed the list to anyone or provided evidence against this individuals.7 Since “McCarthyism” has come to denote a political witch hunt, it is important to take a look at the Senator’s words directly. The speech excerpted here confirms my understanding that McCarthy’s accusations were vague. He attacked groups of people –the federal workers in the State Department –without giving a specific piece of evidence for his claims. It is tragic that someone can make unfounded accusations and that other people are willing to accept those accusations without proof.
If Americans had demanded evidence from McCarthy, his anti-communist witch hunt would never have happened
In conclusion, Senator Joseph McCarthy was one of the leading anti-communist crusaders in the American government during the Second Red Scare. The speech in West
Virginia gave him the national audience to launch his political career. In the end, according to the textbook authors, McCarthy’s failed “to identify a single communist in government.”
It is tragic that so many careers and good names were ruined without a shred of evidence.