Houjun Liu

Legacy of McCarthyism

Reading notes

:claim: Mccarthyism was a process that de-politicized America

Since political activities could get you in trouble, prudent folk avoided them

Social conformaty became standard

middle-class Americans became social conformists

Communism serves as a form of balance checking, which Mccathyism lost

With their demise, the nation lost the institutional network that had created a public space where serious alternatives to the status quo could be presented.

Moderate-left was also diminished

Moreover, with the disappearance of a vigorous movement on their left, moderate reform groups were more exposed to right-wing attacks and thus rendered less effective.

Mccarthyism also diminshed America’s liberal modernization

Measures like national health insurance, a social reform embraced by the rest of the industrialized world, simply fell by the wayside.

Cold-war opposition became quelled by mccarthism

Opposition to the cold war had been so thoroughly identified with communism that it was no longer possible to challenge the basic assumptions of American foreign policy without incurring suspicions of disloyalty

That there may have been more international collaboration if mccarthism was not done early on

American policymakers feared to acknowledge the official existence of the People’s Republic of China until Richard Nixon, who was uniquely impervious to charges of being soft on communism, did so as president in 1971

Controvercial issues were avoided intellecturally and artistically

Similarly, the blacklist contributed to the reluctance of the film industry to grapple with controversial social or political issues. In the intellectual world, cold war liberals also avoided controversy.

That “ideology” became irrelavent, pure pragmatism took hold

They celebrated the “end of ideology,” claiming that the United States’ uniquely pragmatic approach to politics made the problems that had once concerned left- wing ideologists irrelevant.

State power became expanded

federal agents attacked individual rights and extended state power into movie studios, universities, labor unions, and many other ostensibly independent institutions.

That Mccarthism produced a threat to demcrocy in itself

McCarthyism alone did not cause these outrages; but the assault on democracy that began during the 1940s and 1950s with the collaboration of private institutions and public agencies in suppressing the alleged threat of domestic communism was an important early contribution.