NEW YORK — America has come back, at least politically, to where it was in the far-off 1950s when Communist scares and the American fascism of Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy kept the republic in a state of fear and anxiety.
“Reds under our beds” was the slogan in those days of paranoia and witch-hunting. Today, the new scare mantra is: “Muslims under our mattresses,” and “Iran threatens the world.”
In the McCarthy era, the Republican Party was run by East Coast moderate conservatives from New York, Boston and Washington who were well-educated and worldly. McCarthy was a GOP black sheep from the political badlands of the deep Midwest.
The Soviets and their fellow travelers were a real danger in that era, but not to the absurd degree of McCarthy’s fevered claims. But for a while, his anti-Communist campaign intimidated America and held it in thrall. Being accused of pro-Communism was then as ruinous a charge as being called “pro-terrorist” today.
The Republican elite eventually became sickened by McCarthy’s lies and alarms that the government was filled with Communists and Soviet spies, and worried that they were fast losing control of the party to the populist McCarthy. Sixty years later, the GOP indeed fell under control of the rural heartland.
In recent months, we have witnessed the rebirth of McCarthyism in the Iowa presidential caucus as five Republican candidates struggled to outdo one another in warning of the perils of Iran and Islam — the new Red Menace.
The only Republican candidates who spoke responsibly about US foreign policy were Congressman Ron Paul and former Ambassador Jon Huntsman.
The other Republicans issued blood-curdling threats against Iran, and salaamed Israel without relent, and called for continued US domination of the globe.
They clearly didn’t care about the ghastly image of warmongering and imperialism they were projecting abroad. Prostituting oneself to special political interests may have been good politics in rural Iowa, but it was and remains bad, bad medicine for the nation these politicians claim to represent.
President Barack Obama has caused great disappointment abroad by following many of George Bush’s aggressive policies, but at least he somewhat improved America’s tattered global image. Now, the Republican far right has largely undermined this improved image and has sparked a resurgence of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism in many nations.
Over the past 30 years, the Republican right wing has become joined at the hip with Israel’s hard-right Likud Party. Hence the emergence of so-called “Christian Zionists” who are cynically exploited by Israel’s right-wing Likud Party even though a generation ago the fathers of these Christian militants may have belonged to the racist, violently anti-Semitic Ku Klux Clan.
In short, fertile ground for the Republican party’s far right. We are reminded of the great American writer Upton Sinclair, who wrote in the 1930’s “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.”
The calm, reasoned, sensible words of candidate Ron Paul were barely heard thanks to a conspiracy of silence by the mainstream media which bitterly opposes his calls for an end to foreign wars and big government built on a mountain of debt.
No wonder. The 76-year old Dr Paul speaks for many Americans, particularly younger ones, who are sick of war, propaganda, the growing police state, and seeing government dominated by Wall Street and special interests.
Dr. Paul asked me to Washington to brief him on Afghanistan. After, I wrote that Paul was the bravest and most honest political leader I’d met in Congress.
Dr. Paul’s strong finish sends a potent message of anti-war, rebellious sentiment to Washington and to President Barack Obama.
Obama’s stealthy signing of a bill over Christmas that allows the Pentagon to indefinitely lock up American citizens accused of “terrorism” without trial has deeply alarmed many Americans. Even George W. Bush didn’t do this.
Mitt Romney seems likely to win the GOP’s reluctant nomination. He looks as believable as the old Camel billboard in Times Square of a man blowing smoke rings. But compared to his rivals on the right, notably the mountebank Gingrich and the odious Santorum, he seems the sole hold-your-nose choice.
Except, of course, the soft-spoken Dr. Paul. The Republican establishment continues to look over its shoulder in fear of the good doctor. Paul’s powerful placing in conservative Iowa shows that his call for a return to traditional American political and economic values has great resonance among many Americans, young and old.
When my non-North American readers write to express their dismay, or even horror, at the current stable of GOP candidates and their imperialist bombast, I remind them that there is a real American running for president who inspires admiration rather than contempt or fear.
Copyright 2011 Eric S. Margolis